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US-Led Force to Patrol Red Sea in Response to Attacks by Houthis Backing Palestinians

Several countries have agreed to jointly carry out patrols in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to try to safeguard commercial shipping against attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.

The Iran-aligned group says the aim of its missile and drone attacks is to support the Palestinians as Israel and Hamas wage war in the Gaza Strip. On Monday, Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a member of the Houthi politburo, told Al Jazeera that his group will be able to confront any coalition formed by the United States that could deploy to the Red Sea.

Austin, who is on a trip to Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s headquarters in the Middle East, said participating countries led by the United States include the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain.

“This is an international challenge that demands collective action. Therefore today I am announcing the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an important new multinational security initiative,” Austin said in a statement early on Tuesday.

Austin on Monday said Washington’s support for Israel was “unshakable” but he urged its ally to do more to protect civilians as its war against Hamas brought yet more death and destruction to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which Israel has besieged following an attack by Hamas on Israel on Oct. 7.

There is growing concern from foreign governments and international organisations over the death toll among civilians in Gaza from Israeli bombardments as well as rising hunger and destitution.

The Gaza health ministry said on Monday that 19,453 Palestinians had been killed and 52,286 wounded in the Israeli assault on the Hamas-ruled enclave in more than two months of warfare.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to achieve total victory over Hamas, whose fighters killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages in the surprise Oct. 7 raid into Israel that triggered the war, according to Israeli tallies.

Source : Reuters