Amid escalating tensions in the Red Sea, British Defense Secretary, Grant Shapps, has declared Britain’s willingness to take direct action against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Defense Secretary Grant Shapps, speaking on Monday, expressed Britain’s readiness to take direct action against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have been repeatedly attacking vessels in the Red Sea. London’s warning comes amid escalating tensions in the crucial shipping lane, with US Navy helicopters intervening on Sunday to thwart Houthi rebels attempting to board a cargo ship.

The rebels, who seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014 and control a significant portion of the country, including its Red Sea coastline, have reported 10 fighters dead or missing.

The Houthis, claiming solidarity with Palestinians in the Israel-Hamas conflict, have persistently launched drones and missiles at passing ships in the seaway that handles 12 percent of global trade.

Shortly after the latest incident, Shapps mentioned that Britain is prepared to enhance its military interventions, citing a British destroyer’s successful interception of a suspected Houthi attack drone in the Red Sea in mid-December.

In an article in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Shapps affirmed, “We are willing to take direct action, and we won’t hesitate to take further steps to deter threats to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.”

Describing the regional situation as “a test for the international community,” Shapps highlighted its broader implications for potentially contested waterways worldwide.

“If we do not protect the Red Sea, it risks emboldening those seeking to threaten elsewhere, including in the South China Sea and Crimea,” he added.

“We need to stand firm with our allies, stand firm for our beliefs, and stand firm for innocent people caught up in these events.”

According to reports from The Telegraph, London is collaboratively developing plans with Washington for potential military actions against the Houthis. The outlet also suggested that a joint statement, serving as a final warning to cease attacks, was imminent.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron shared on social media that he had discussed the Red Sea tensions with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, on Sunday. Cameron pointed out that Iran shares responsibility for preventing these attacks, noting Tehran’s “long-standing support” for the Houthis.

Miroslava Salazar, with AFP