British and US forces have launched an attack on Houthi targets in Yemen after the Iranian-backed group defied a warning to stop targeting ships in the Red Sea.

Yemeni press agency, SABA reported attacks took place in the capital, Sana’a, and the governorates of Sa’dah, Hodeidah, Taiz, and Dhamar.

US officials said the strikes had been carried out by warship-launched Tomahawk missiles, as well as fighter jets and a submarine.

In a statement issued shortly after the attacks, US President Joe Biden said: “These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most critical commercial routes.”

Mr Biden said the military action was also supported by Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands.

Middle East crisis – latest: US and UK ‘launch strikes against Houthi targets’

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also said Houthi attacks could not be allowed to stand.

More on Houthi Rebels

He said: “The United Kingdom will always stand up for freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade. We have therefore taken limited, necessary and proportionate action in self-defence.”

Nasr Aldeen Amer, vice president of the Houthi media authority in Sana’a hit out at what he called ‘a brutal aggression against our country’ by America.

“They will pay absolutely and without hesitation, and we will not back down from our position in supporting the Palestinian people, whatever the cost,” he said.

Houthi official Abdulsalam Jahaf also wrote on social media that “America, Britain and Israel are launching raids”.

“We will discipline them God willing,” he added.

HMS Diamond (file pic) was a target of Houthi attacks

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Biden and Sunak confirm strikes in Yemen

A joint statement by 10 governments issued through the White House said they would “not hesitate to defend lives and protect the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways”.

Denmark, Germany, New Zealand and South Korea added their names to the six nations that took part in the joint strikes.

The statement said: “The Houthis’ more than two dozen attacks on commercial vessels since mid-November constitute an international challenge.

“Today’s action demonstrated a shared commitment to freedom of navigation, international commerce, and defending the lives of mariners from illegal and unjustifiable attacks.”

The strikes came after Grant Shapps, the UK defence secretary, accused Iran of meddling and declared “enough is enough” in an escalating crisis that could ignite a wider conflict across the Middle East.

Overnight on Tuesday, a Royal Navy warship shot down seven drones in an operation with US naval vessels and jets to repel the largest Houthi drone and missile attack to date.

The UK, US and other countries issued a warning to the group a week ago to end the targeting of commercial shipping or “bear the responsibility of the consequences”.

Sky’s security and defence editor, Deborah Haynes, said the US and UK had to act or their warnings would have sounded empty.

“This is a hugely significant moment. It was inevitable that military action by the British and the Americans would be taking place after Houthis on Tuesday night defied a warning to stop attacking shipping in the Red Sea by launching a major attack with drones and missiles, that was thwarted by British and American warships and American war planes. Then, the British defence secretary said ‘watch this space’.

“And now we are watching that space and seeing what’s happening,”