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EU ship destroys Houthi rebel drone in Red Sea fired from Yemen

Military ship Red Sea.
Military ship Red Sea. Copyright Vadim Ghirda/AP
Copyright Vadim Ghirda/AP
By Euronews with AP
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The unmanned aerial device was intercepted by an EU mission ship protecting merchant shipping in the area.

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A drone launched from an area in Yemen controlled by Houthi rebels was intercepted by the EU's mission in the Red Sea on Thursday morning, according to a top military officer. 

The unmanned aerial device was shot down by a frigate that’s part of an EU mission in the Middle Eastern waterway to protect merchant shipping. 

Austrian General Robert Brieger, who is chair of the EU’s military committee, said it was crucial for the bloc to “conserve resources” in the long run because the threat posed by Houthi attacks “will not disappear” due to its connection to the Israel-Hamas war.

“The task given to the military is simply to protect merchant ships and to show the public that the European Union is not willing to accept a terrorist organisation will interrupt the freedom of movement at sea,” Brieger said.

The Austrian General said he was asking EU members to provide necessary resources to the EU mission dubbed Aspides - Greek for “shields.”

He said it’s the first time the EU has launched a naval operation in a hostile environment, calling it a “litmus test” the bloc will pass successfully.

20mm Phalanx CIWS weapons defense cannon is mounted on the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Gravely on March 14, 2023.
20mm Phalanx CIWS weapons defense cannon is mounted on the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Gravely on March 14, 2023.John C. Clark/Copyright The AP. All rights reserved

The commander of the EU naval mission in the Red Sea, Greek Rear Admiral Vasilios Gryparis, wants to significantly increase its size to better defend against possible attacks by Houthi rebels. 

Nineteen of the 27 EU nations are involved in the mission, but only four frigates are patrolling an area twice the size of the bloc.

The EU mission was established in February to defend civilian vessels and doesn't take part in any military strikes. The southern part of the Red Sea is deemed a high-risk zone.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels, which control much of Yemen’s north and west, launched a campaign of drone and missile attacks on shipping in the Red Sea in November. 

They have also fired missiles toward Israel, although those have largely fallen short or been intercepted.

The attacks have hit maritime trade to Egypt and Europe, with only around half the usual number of ships moving through the area. 

Up to two weeks transit time has been added for vessels wanting to avoid the Suez Canal, hiking transport costs and shipping insurance.

The rebels have described their campaign as an effort to pressure Israel to end its devastating war in Gaza. 

Ships targeted by the Houthis, however, largely have had little or no connection to Israel, the US or other nations involved in the war.

Their campaign has continued despite more than two months of US-led retaliatory airstrikes.

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