Mapped: US and UK airstrikes hit sites linked to Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen

Britain and the US have launched joint military strikes targeting the Houthis in areas controlled by the rebel group in Yemen on Thursday, further escalating the conflict in the Middle East.

Thursday's military operation comes after the Iran-backed Houthis attacked an estimated 27 ships in the Red Sea over the course of several months since the start of Israel’s war in Gaza, which have disrupted international commerce on the key route between Europe and Asia.

Huge explosions were seen in the capital Sanaa and other Yemeni cities such as Hodeidah in the early hours of Friday.

The US air force said it struck 60 targets at 16 sites linked to the Houthis’ military operations. More than 100 precision-guided munitions of various types were used in the strikes, the American military said in a statement.

At least five major targets were hit in Yemen, according to the Houthi-run satellite news channel Al-Masirah.

The Al-Dailami Air Base north of Sanaa, which shares a structure with the international airport, was targeted.

Blasts were also reported from the airports in the port city of Hodeida and the city of Taiz, according to the Associated Press. And explosions were heard coming from the Abs Airport near the city of Hajjah.

Kahlan Camp, a military base east of Sanaa, was also targeted during the joint operation, aided by Australia.

As well as these targets, the Houth-run Saba news agency said airstrikes targeted various parts of Zabid District, in Hodeida governate.

President Joe Biden said in a statement that the US and its allies “will not tolerate” ceaseless attacks on ships in the Red Sea, while British prime minister Rishi Suank added that the attack was a “necessary and proportionate action in self-defence”.

Houthi officials have vowed retaliation, saying the attack won't stop them from targeting Israel-linked vessels in the Red Sea.

"The battle will be bigger ... and beyond the imagination and expectation of the Americans and the British," said Ali al-Qahoum, a high-ranking Houthi official.

Three weeks ago the US launched Operation Prosperity Guardian, a concerted effort to protect international shipping in the Red Sea from Houthi attacks.