Monday, February 26, 2024

US seeking to convince shipping firms to resume sailing via Red Sea despite Yemen’s attacks

The United States is taking steps to reassure shipping companies that it is safe to use the Red Sea and Suez Canal for cargo deliveries amid continued attacks by the Houthis, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

After a war between Israel and Hamas broke out in October, Yemen’s Houthi movement has intensified its attacks on cargo ships linked to Israel in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, vowing to continue the attacks until Israel ends its military actions in the Gaza Strip.

The Pentagon is “engaged with industry on a near-daily basis to gauge needs and provide reassurance that the international community is there to help with safe passage”, Air Force Lt. Col. Bryon McGarry, a Defense Department spokesperson for the Middle East and Africa, was quoted as saying in the report.

Last week, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the establishment of a multinational operation to secure the Red Sea amid the surge in Houthis’ attacks on cargo ships, saying that the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Seychelles, and Spain would take part in the mission. The Houthis, for their part, vowed to attack any ships that join the US-led maritime coalition.

“We are not putting a timeline on this operation,” McGarry added.

“We’ll stand firm with our partners in the region for as long as it takes until the threat to international shipping in these waterways has ceased.”

Reuters has also reported several US allies are withholding their support for a maritime coalition aimed at protecting shipping routes in the Red Sea from attacks by Houthi fighters in Yemen.

When the Joe Biden administration announced the task force of 20 nations earlier this month, it was seeking a firm international response to actions by the Houthis, but so far only 12 countries have confirmed their participation in the effort, the news agency said in an article on Thursday.

Two US allies in the EU – Spain and Italy, who were eventually named as contributors to ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ – have since distanced themselves from the task force.

Washington continues to back the Israeli military operation in the Palestinian enclave, despite increasing international criticism the Israeli bombardment, through which more than 21,500 Palestinians have been killed according to Gaza’s health ministry.

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