Australia, US, UK issue warning over Red Sea attacks

January 4, 2024 by AAP
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Australia has joined the US, UK, Japan and other nations in signing an international statement calling for an “immediate end” to Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.

This photo released by the Houthi Media Center shows a Houthi forces helicopter approaching the cargo ship Galaxy Leader on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. Yemen’s Houthis seized the ship in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen after threatening to seize all vessels owned by Israeli companies. (Houthi Media Centre via AP)

The Iran-backed Yemeni rebels have blockaded the waters in support of Palestine, targeting Israel-linked or destined ships with the hopes of ending Tel Aviv’s retaliation which followed an October 7 Hamas attack.

Action in the Red Sea has escalated in the last week as seven Houthis were killed in a clash with US military helicopters after they fired on a Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou container ship.

On Thursday morning (AEDT), 11 governments, including Australia, the US, the UK, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand, issued a final warning to the rebels.

The nations decried the Houthis’ Red Sea attacks as “illegal, unacceptable and profoundly destabilising” and claimed they would “threaten innocent lives from all over the world”.

“The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and the free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways,” the statement warned.

“Let our message now be clear: we call for the immediate end of these illegal attacks and the release of unlawfully detained vessels and crews.”

Almost 15 per cent of seaborne trade worldwide passes through the Red Sea.

But the Houthi blockade has forced shipping companies to reroute vessels around the Cape of Good Hope, which governments say adds significant cost and delays to the delivery of goods.

In December, Australia rejected a US request for a Royal Australia Navy ship that would help secure international shipping lanes in the Red Sea.

But up to six extra Australian Defence Force officers will be deployed to Bahrain as part of the Combined Maritime Forces in January, with five personnel already embedded in the operation.

The Houthi blockade is a form of protest against Israel’s bombardment, blockade and ground invasion on Gaza which has killed more than 22,000 Palestinians, put half of the territory’s 2.3 million residents at risk of starvation and left most without homes, according to the territory’s local health ministry and the UN.

Israel’s violence stems from an October 7 attack by Hamas, considered a terrorist group by the Australian government, which killed more than 1200 Israelis and took 240 hostages according to Tel Aviv officials.

By Kat Wong in Canberra/AAP with AP

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