Houthis hijack ship in the Red Sea (archive)
Houthis hijack ship in the Red Sea (archive)Screenshot

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin officially announced on Monday night that the US and a host of other nations are creating a new force to protect ships that have come under attack in the Red Sea by drones and ballistic missiles from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, The Associated Press reported.

“This is an international challenge that demands collective action,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in statement. “Therefore today I am announcing the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an important new multinational security initiative.”

The United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain will join the US in the new mission, Austin announced. Some of the countries will conduct joint patrols while others provide intelligence support in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The mission will be coordinated by the already existing Combined Task Force 153, which was set up in April 2022 to improve maritime security in the Red Sea, Bab el-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden. There have been 39 member nations in CTF 153, but officials were working to determine which of them would participate in this latest effort.

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have upped their attacks on vessels in the Red Sea since the start of the Israel-Hamas was on October 7.

Last week, the Houthi rebels threatened to attack any vessels heading to Israeli ports unless food and medicine were allowed into the Gaza Strip.

Two days later, the Houthis launched a land-based cruise missile towards a Norwegian commercial tanker vessel.

A senior Houthi official then warned cargo ships in the Red Sea to avoid traveling toward “occupied Palestinian territories”.

Last Thursday, the Houthis claimed they carried out a military operation against a Maersk container vessel, directly hitting it with a drone, but did not provide evidence for the claim.

A day later, Maersk and German company Hapag-Lloyd announced they would temporarily halt operations in the Red Sea. On Saturday, two more major shipping firms, Mediterranean Shipping Company and CMA CGM, announced they were suspending passage through the Red Sea due to Houthi rebel attacks in the area.