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PM backs latest strikes on Houthis

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5 February 2024, The Age, by David Crowe

Australia has backed the United States over its missile strikes against militias backed by Iran in the wake of a drone attack that killed three American troops and wounded dozens of others in Jordan last week.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called the latest strikes ‘‘appropriate’’ and repeated his call for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, while suggesting that any Palestinian state would have to be demilitarised to avoid conflict.

His comments came after the US and Britain struck 36 Houthi targets in Yemen with support from Australia in a second wave of assaults meant to disable Iran-backed groups that have attacked American and international interests after the Israel-Hamas war.

The latest strikes against the Houthis were launched by warships and fighter jets. They follow an air assault in Iraq and Syria on Saturday that targeted other Iranianbacked militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in retaliation for the drone strike that killed the American troops.

‘‘We support the actions of the United States. These are proportionate. These are retaliatory for the actions of Iran-backed organisations. And they are not an escalation,’’ Albanese said yesterday.

‘‘We think that the United States has got it right. It’s important that, given the attacks that have occurred by groups backed by Iran, there be a response. There has been.’’

Asked whether Australia would recognise a Palestinian state in the event Israel did not do so, Albanese emphasised that Israel had an interest in its security.

‘‘We need to de-escalate. Part of that might mean, for example, any existence of a Palestinian state would be one which was a demilitarised state as well,’’ he said on the Insiders program on the ABC.

The Houthi targets were in 13 locations and were struck by American F/A-18 fighter jets from the USS Dwight D Eisenhower aircraft carrier and by the USS Gravely and the USS Carney Navy destroyers firing Tomahawk missiles from the Red Sea, US officials said.

The US warned that its response after the soldiers’ deaths at the Tower 22 base in Jordan a week ago would not be limited to one night, one target or one group. But the Houthis have been conducting almost daily missile or drone attacks against commercial and military ships transiting the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, and they have made clear that they have no intention of scaling back their campaign.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said that the military action, with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, ‘‘sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will continue to bear further consequences if they do not end their illegal attacks on international shipping and naval vessels. We will not hesitate to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways.’’

Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a Houthi official, said ‘‘military operations against Israel will continue until the crimes of genocide in Gaza are stopped and the siege on its residents is lifted, no matter the sacrifices it costs us’’. He wrote online that the ‘‘American-British aggression against Yemen will not go unanswered, and we will meet escalation with escalation’’.

The US has blamed the Jordan attack on the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iranian-backed militias. Iran has tried to distance itself from the drone strike, saying the militias act independently of its direction. With AP

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Article source: The Age/David Crowe/5.2.2024

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000