Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO on 18 December, 2023

US-Led Multinational Force to Counter Houthi Red Sea Threats, Says Defense Secretary

Public By Pesach Benson • 18 December, 2023

Jerusalem, 18 December, 2023 (TPS) -- US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in Tel Aviv on Monday that the US will lead a multi-national naval force in the Red Sea to counter attacks by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen on commercial shipping in the strategic waterway.

“America’s commitment to Israel is unwavering and no individual, group or state should test our resolve. So, in the Red Sea, we’re leading a multinational maritime taskforce to uphold the bedrock principle of freedom of navigation. Iran’s support for Houthi attacks on commercial vessels must stop,” Austin said in remarks before meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Now, we’ll continue to provide Israel with the equipment that you need to defend your country, Mr. Prime Minister, including critical munitions, tactical vehicles and air defense systems,” Austin added.

Said Netanyahu, “This is a battle against the Iranian axis, the Iranian axis of terror, which is now threatening to close the maritime strait of Bab el-Mandeb. This threatens the freedom of navigation of the entire world. I appreciate the fact that you’re taking action to open that strait. It’s not only our interest, it is the interest I think of the entire civilized community.”

Austin also met with his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant.

Since Nov. 9, the Iran-backed Houthis have launched ballistic missiles and aerial drones at Israel. All were intercepted by Israeli or American air defense systems or fell short of their targets.

From bases along the Yemeni coast, Houthi rebels are also able to threaten shipping in the Red Sea as they traverse the Bab el-Mandeb Straits, a narrow maritime chokepoint between the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. The majority of the world’s oil passes through the strait from the Indian Ocean towards the Suez Canal and Mediterranean Sea.

The Houthis recently announced that they would target any Israel-bound ship in the Red Sea, regardless of its ownership. They have attacked or harassed a number of ships, including the Galaxy Leader. The cargo ship and its crew of 25 are being held hostage in the Yemeni port of Hodeidah.