Australia considers US request to send warship to Red Sea as Houthis target shipping lanes | Australian military #Australia #considers #request #send #warship #Red #Sea #Houthis #target #shipping #lanes #Australian #military

The United States has asked Australia to send a warship to the Red Sea amid ongoing attacks on commercial shipping from Iran-backed militia.

The request, made recently, came from the US navy which wants the vessel to join an international taskforce, of which Australia is one of 39 member nations.

The US-led CMF aims to combat smuggling, piracy and narcotics in international waters around the Middle East.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said the Australian government already contributed to maritime security in that “often dangerous part of the world”.

“When we get these kinds of requests from time to time, the usual practice would be for the defence minister to consider that, to recommend to colleagues whether [and] how we respond to that request,” he told the ABC on Thursday.

“As I understand it, there has been a request made and we’ll consider it in the usual way.”

Chalmers later told Nine’s Today Show “some kind of request” had been conveyed to the government.

On Tuesday, a Norwegian-flagged commercial tanker was struck by a missile launched from Houthi-controlled Yemen, causing a fire and damage but no casualties.

The attack on the tanker Strinda took place about 100km north of the Bab el-Mandab Strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, a US official told Reuters.

The Iran-aligned Houthis have waded into the Israel-Hamas conflict – which has spread around the Middle East since 7 October – attacking vessels in vital shipping lanes and firing drones and missiles at Israel.

Last weekend, the Houthis said they would target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality, and warned international shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports.

The group, which rules much of Yemen, says its attacks are a show of support for Palestinians.

They have vowed to continue until Israel stops its offensive on the Gaza Strip, more than 1,600km from the Houthi seat of power in Sanaa.

During the first week of December, three commercial vessels came under attack in international waters, prompting a US navy destroyer to intervene.

The US and Britain have condemned the attacks on shipping, blaming Iran for its role in supporting the Houthis.

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Federal Coalition senator Jane Hume said the opposition would support the government if it agreed to the US request.

“Australia remains ready to stand by our allies in the Middle East, particularly to protect those trade routes as potentially we may be asked to do,” she told Nine’s Today show on Thursday.

“So, of course, we would support standing by Israel in any way they need and the requests from the US.”

On Wednesday, Australia made a rare break with the US to vote in favour of an immediate humanitarian ceasefire at the United Nations.

Although the UN general assembly resolution is nonbinding, humanitarian and advocacy groups have called on Australia to lobby the US to vote for a ceasefire resolution in the security council, where it would be binding.

The latest upsurge in a long history of violence in the region was sparked when fighters from Hamas – considered a terrorist group by the Australian government – crossed a border fence into southern Israel, killing 1,200 Israelis and taking more than 200 hostages on 7 October.

Since then, more than 18,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces.

Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been driven from their homes and face starvation as Israel’s bombing campaign stretches into its third month.

with Reuters

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