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EU's Red Sea naval mission not affected by Iran attack on Israel, commander says

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EU's Red Sea naval mission not affected by Iran attack on Israel, commander says
April 16, 2024
Lefteris Papadimas - Reuters

By Lefteris Papadimas

LARISSA, Greece (Reuters) - The operations of the European Union's naval mission to the Red Sea have not been affected by Iran's first-ever direct attack on Israel but the force needs more combat ships to protect merchant vessels sailing through "a vast area", its commander told Reuters on Tuesday.

The EU's Red Sea naval mission, dubbed Eunavfor "Aspides", was launched in February to protect vessels from attacks launched by Iranian-aligned Houthi militants as part of their stated campaign of solidarity with Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.

"So far, there is no evidence that... the situation has worsened," the commander of the operation Rear Admiral Vasileios Gryparis told Reuters at the headquarters of the mission in the Greek city of Larissa.

The mission has so far destroyed 10 drones and intercepted four ballistic missiles launched by Houthis in the Red Sea since the middle of February, its officials told reporters in Larissa. It has also escorted 79 merchant vessels to safely cross the area.

The mission's four frigates from Greece, Germany, France and Italy have been patrolling across a vast area extending from the southern Red Sea to the northwestern Indian Ocean, twice the size of the European Union's territory.

Gryparis said it will ask European authorities to engage more battle ships in the Red Sea.

"(We need) at least twice the number we have now," he said.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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