EU military officer says a frigate has destroyed a drone launched from Yemen’s Houthi-held areas


NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A top European Union military officer said that a frigate that’s part of an EU mission in the Red Sea to protect merchant shipping destroyed a drone launched from an area in Yemen controlled by Houthi rebels on Thursday morning.

Austrian Gen. Robert Brieger, who is chair of the EU’s military committee, said that it would be crucial for the bloc to “conserve resources” over the long haul 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 organization will interrupt the freedom of movement at sea,” Brieger said.

Brieger said that he’s asking EU members to provide the necessary resources to the EU mission dubbed Aspides — Greek for “shields.”

He said that it’s the first time that the EU has launched a naval operation in a hostile environment that’s twice the size of the 27-nation bloc, calling it a “litmus test” that the bloc will pass successfully.

The commander of an EU naval mission in the Red Sea, Greek Rear Adm. Vasilios Gryparis, wants to significantly increase its size to better defend against possible attacks by Houthi rebels based in Yemen. 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. It’s added up to two weeks of transit time for vessels that want 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 the wear. The ships targeted by the Houthis, however, largely have had little or no connection to Israel, the U.S. or other nations involved in the war.

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

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