Netherlands joining U.S. mission to protect
Red Sea shipping routes from Houthi attacks
The Dutch military was expected to take part in an international operation to protect cargo ships sailing across the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, said the U.S. Department of Defense in a statement. The ships have been increasingly under threat of attack by the Houthi Rebels in Yemen, who have been firing on ships from the West due to the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Dutch Ministry of Defense confirmed participation on Tuesday morning.
“The attacks on shipping in the Red Sea undermine freedom of navigation and are a serious threat to ships and crews. Under U.S. leadership, NL and many likeminded partners are joining forces to secure free and safe navigation,” Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren wrote on X. She said the Netherlands will start by providing two staff officers to the operation.
Over the weekend, a spokesperson for the Houthis said the attacks will continue until the “aggression” towards Gaza comes to an end. On Sunday, Ollongren confirmed she was in talks with other countries about the situation, telling television show WNL op Zondag that military escorts along the sailing routes were under discussion.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said his country and the Netherlands will be joined by Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Norway, Seychelles, Spain and the United Kingdom for the mission named, “Operation Prosperity Garden.” The stated goal is to ensure “freedom of navigation for all countries and bolstering regional security and prosperity.”
Austin condemned the Houthi attacks as a violation of international law targetting innocent sailors, and a threat to international commerce. “The Red Sea is a critical waterway that has been essential to freedom of navigation and a major commercial corridor that facilitates international trade. Countries that seek to uphold the foundational principle of freedom of navigation must come together to tackle the challenge posed by this non-state actor launching ballistic missiles and uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) at merchant vessels from many nations lawfully transiting international waters,” he wrote in the statement released late Monday night in the U.S.
“This is an international challenge that demands collective action.”
Many Dutch shipping companies and foreign shipping firms have halted their operations in the Red Sea because of the attacks. As an alternative, they have selected to sail around southern Africa, often adding 10 to 15 days to their journey.
On Friday, Annet Koster from the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KVNR) advocated for military escorts, saying they have been successful in the past. “When Iran attacked tankers in the Straits of Hormuz a few years ago, they also did this, and it helped,” she said.
Koster also criticized the Houthi attacks, saying they increasingly lack any connection to the situation in Israel. She added, “especially that arbitrariness is what makes it so dangerous