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Italian warship to head to Red Sea after Houthi attacks

Local media reported on Tuesday that Italy would send a warship amid a rise in attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

The Italian warship frigate Virgilio Fasan was due to be dispatched in February 2024 to support the European Union’s Atalanta operation to deter and disrupt acts of piracy and armed robbery in the southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. It is projected to pass through the Suez Canal on 24 December.

The decision came after Italian Defence Minister Guido Crozetto held a video conference with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. On Monday, Austin announced the creation of a multinational naval task force to counter Houthi attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea.

He called Operation Prosperity Guardian “an important new multinational security initiative under the auspices of the Combined Maritime Forces and the leadership of Task Force 153, which is dedicated to security in the Red Sea.”

A series of missile attacks on ships travelling through the Red Sea have disrupted one of the world’s busiest trade routes and driven up energy prices.

Houthi leaders claim they carry out the attacks to support the Palestinians. They began launching drones and rockets towards Israel shortly after the Gaza conflict began in early October, and have since moved on to attacking ships belonging to or heading to Israel. But some of the ships attacked in recent days have no obvious ties to Israel, and container and tanker companies are concerned that all ships are now vulnerable. The Houthis have said they will not retreat until Israel halts its military offensive.

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