The European Union announced the launch of Aspides - a defensive maritime security operation to restore and safeguard freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and the Gulf.

"With the launch of EUNAVFOR ASPIDES, the European Union is responding swiftly to the necessity to restore maritime security and freedom of navigation in a highly strategic maritime corridor," says Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. "The operation will play a key role in safeguarding commercial and security interests, for the sake of the EU and the wider international community."

Ursula von der Leyen, President, EU Commission. (Photo Credit: X)

Ursula von der Leyen, President, EU Commission welcomed the decision to launch the EU Naval Force Operation Aspides on X.

Operation Aspides will ensure an EU naval presence in the area where numerous Houthi attacks have targeted international commercial vessels since October 2023, says an official release. "In close cooperation with like-minded international partners, Aspides will contribute to safeguard maritime security and ensure freedom of navigation, especially for merchant and commercial vessels. Within its defensive mandate, the operation will provide maritime situational awareness, accompany vessels, and protect them against possible multi-domain attacks at sea.

"The operation will be active along the main sea lines of communication in the Baab al-Mandab Strait and the Strait of Hormuz as well as international waters in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Gulf."

The Operation Commander will be Commodore Vasilios Griparis and the Force Commander will be Rear Admiral Stefano Costantino. The Operation headquarters will be based in Larissa, Greece, the release added.

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) warned on February 19, 2024 of two uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) following a merchant vessel for 30 minutes. "The UAS were assessed to be at a height of 100 metres above the vessel and are now reported to have cleared the area."

U.S. Central Command posted on X on February 18, 2024 that two anti-ship ballistic missiles were launched from Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist-controlled areas of Yemen toward MV Rubymar, a UK-owned bulk carrier. "One of the missiles struck the vessel, causing damage."

Since October 2023, numerous Houthi attacks have targeted vessels in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman.

The United States launched Operation Prosperity Guardian, an international maritime task force designed to defend against the attacks in December 2023.

“For now, it is clear that despite the more offensive posture of the US and UK forces in the region this has done nothing to reduce the frequency of attacks launched from the Houthies,” writes Lars Jensen on LinkedIn.

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