Greece to join US-led coalition to protect Red Sea shipping from Houthis

The maritime alliance wants to counter threats that the Yemeni rebel group says are a response to Israeli ‘crimes’ in Gaza.

Greece will send a warship to support a United States-led naval coalition in the Red Sea, becoming the latest country to join the alliance to counter threats from Yemen’s Houthis.

Defence Minister Nikos Dendias announced the move in a televised address on Thursday, saying Greece, as a major shipping nation, has a “fundamental interest” in addressing the “massive threat” to maritime transport.

The naval task force, announced by the US on Tuesday, initially listed 10 member nations to help patrol the waters to deter the Iran-aligned Houthis, who have attacked more than a dozen vessels they claim were linked to Israel amid the war on Gaza.

The Houthis say they will halt their attacks only if Israel’s “crimes in Gaza stop”.

The original members of the Red Sea task force – called Operation Prosperity Guardian – include the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain.

Since then, Denmark has also joined the alliance, according to the Reuters news agency. Meanwhile, the European Union member states have agreed to contribute through the European Naval Force.

Australia stopped short of committing its warships to the alliance but said on Thursday it would send 11 military personnel to support the mission.

‘Will not stand idly by’

Despite the Western show of force, the Houthis have promised to continue their attacks on vessels travelling to or from Israel for as long as the Gaza war goes on, saying operations will not cease even if the US mobilises “the entire world”.

On Wednesday, Houthi leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi warned the group would not hesitate to strike US warships if Washington targeted it.

“We will not stand idly by if the Americans are tempted to escalate further and commit foolishness by targeting our country or waging war against it,” al-Houthi said in a televised speech.

“Any American targeting of our country will be targeted by us, and we will make American battleships, interests, and navigation a target for our missiles, drones, and military operations,” he added.

In recent months, Houthi drone attacks and attempted hijackings have pushed more than a dozen shipping firms to suspend operations in the Red Sea, through which 12 percent of all global trade passes.

On Thursday, the foreign minister of Egypt, which has not formally joined the maritime coalition, said countries on the Red Sea have a responsibility to protect the contentious waters and that Cairo would do its part to ensure “freedom of navigation”.

“We continue to cooperate with many of our partners to provide suitable conditions for the freedom of navigation in the Red Sea,” said Sameh Shoukry at a news conference.



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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