Australia involved in US and UK strikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen

Australia has supported US and UK strikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen who were blocking free maritime navigation.

The strikes were launched in response to the Iran-backed group blockading international shipping lanes in the Red Sea in support of Palestine.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said the government will continue to support any actions that assert the global rules-based order and freedom of navigation.

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“These are very important actions,” he said in Geelong.

“The actions that have been taken today, supported by Australia, are about maintaining freedom of navigation on the high seas.

US and British militaries are bombing more than a dozen sites used by Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. Credit: AP

“They are about maintaining global trade, and that is completely central to Australia’s national interest. This decision was not taken lightly.”

Marles would not confirm details of Australia’s involvement, which was revealed by US President Joe Biden.

“US military forces — together with the United Kingdom and with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands — successfully conducted strikes against a number of targets in Yemen used by Houthi rebels to endanger freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most vital waterways,” Biden said.

“These strikes are in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history.”

Australia’s support of the strikes included defence personnel in a non-operational role in the operational headquarters.

The government considered a US request to deploy a warship to the region but instead sent a contingent of ADF members.

The Houthis — an Iran-backed Shia political and military organisation that has been fighting a civil war in Yemen against a coalition backed by Saudi Arabia — have been launching drones and missiles at commercial shipping vessels in the Red Sea for weeks.

Many have been intercepted and shot down by US Navy ships in the area.

The Houthis say their assaults are aimed at stopping Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The attacks have seriously disrupted international commerce on the key route between Europe and Asia that accounts for about 15 per cent of the world’s shipping traffic.

Many shipping companies have been forced to reroute vessels, taking the longer journey around Africa, although several oil majors, refiners and trading houses have continued to use it.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said the decision to support attacks against Houthis in Yemen was not taken lightly. Credit: AAP

Meanwhile, former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce is urging the Albanese government not to back legal action accusing Israel of genocide.

The International Court of Justice is hearing South Africa’s case against Israel for its actions in Gaza.

Joyce said Australia should not support the case against Israel, while taking a swipe at South Africa for violence within its own borders.

Independent senator David Pocock has urged Labor to support the case, pointing to the “extraordinary scale” of human suffering in Gaza including the deaths of children, health workers and journalists.

War has raged for almost 100 days after more than 1200 Israelis were killed and 240 others taken hostage by Hamas on October 7.

More than 23,000 Palestinians have since been killed by the Israeli military, with the United Nations warning half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are at risk of starvation.

Oxfam said Israel’s military was killing Palestinians at an average rate of 250 people a day, far exceeding the death toll of any other major 21st century conflict.

– With CNN, AP , Reuters

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