Rishi Sunak is holding a full cabinet call this evening which is thought to be about UK and US military strikes against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The meeting started at 7.45pm tonight, with senior figures including foreign secretary David Cameron seen entering Downing Street earlier.

It comes after an emergency COBRA meeting was held this morning, followed by a call between Mr Sunak and Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi this afternoon.

Downing Street said the leaders discussed “the concerning rise in Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea and the disruptive impact on global shipping, including through the Suez Canal”.

“The prime minister said the UK would continue to take action to defend freedom of navigation and protect lives at sea,” they added.

Attacks by Houthi fighters – both on Israel and on commercial ships in the Red Sea – have stoked fears of a wider conflict in the region already affected by the war in Gaza.

On Tuesday, a British warship shot down seven drones launched by the Iranian-backed Houthi fighters in an operation with US forces to repel the largest drone and missile attack to date.

The attack came despite a warning by the United States, the UK and other partners issued a week ago to the group to end the targeting of commercial shipping or “bear the responsibility of the consequences”.

Earlier, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps accused Iran of meddling and declared “enough is enough” – hinting that the UK could be ready to strike.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also warned that “there will be consequences” for the continued Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Holding a last-minute evening cabinet meeting is an unusual step.

Sky News’s deputy political editor Sam Coates said: “Downing Street haven’t formally briefed why this call is happening, but a cabinet meeting only happens at short notice when there’s a moment of national importance.”

Sir William Patey, a former ambassador to several countries in the Middle East, also told Sky News: “You don’t hold an emergency cabinet meeting unless you’re considering a military response.

“The Americans have clearly put some military options on the table and have invited us to participate.”

Sky News understands that Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, has also been called to a briefing in Whitehall tonight.

Starmer to be briefed on cabinet call

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and the Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey are also to be briefed by the government shortly after the cabinet call, it is understood.

Veteran left wing MP John McDonnell said if military action is decided, it should not go ahead “without Parliamentary approval”.

He added: “If we have learnt anything in recent years it’s that military intervention in the Middle East always has dangerous & often unforeseen consequences. There is a risk of setting the region alight.”

Read More: Why are the Houthis attacking ships in the Red Sea?

It comes as the US confirmed a 27th Houthi attack on international shipping since 19 November.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that ‘there will be consequences’ if Houthi fighters will continue their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.

The attack happened at 2am Yemen time in the Gulf of Aden.

No injuries or damage were reported, but in a televised briefing a spokesperson for the US military confirmed that UK and US forces downed 18 one-way attack drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles, and one anti-ship ballistic missile.

Brigadier General Pat Ryder said “dozens” of commercial ships were operating in the area at the time.

Asked if a change of approach in the Red Sea should be expected, he said he won’t “telegraph, forecast or speculate on any potential future operations”.

But he added: “I think that statement from multiple nations when it comes to the fact that there will be consequences, should the attacks not stop, speaks for itself. And I’ll just leave it at that.”

Sir William said that given the Houthis have ignored warnings to stop attacking shipping, continuing to intercept drones is not “in the long term very feasible”.

He said: “I’m sure that the Americans, Brits, and other members of the international coalition will be considering whether there are feasible targets that can be struck in Houthi-run territory of Yemen that are viable.”

However he said that an issue in the past has been finding viable targets, which he defines as bases where missiles are launched from or stored.

The US in particular is under pressure to re-establish proper deterrents against the Houthi rebels.

Concerns are growing about the global economic impact of the disruption to shipping through the vital Red Sea, with vessels choosing to divert, pushing up the cost of trade and potentially causing inflation to rise.

The Houthis, a group of Shia Islamists based in western Yemen, oppose US and Israeli influence in the Middle East – with its slogan containing the words “death to America”, “death to Israel” and a “curse upon the Jews”.

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