US Defense Chief: Israel Must Shield Civilians to Win in Gaza

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon on November 22, 2023 - AFP
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon on November 22, 2023 - AFP
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US Defense Chief: Israel Must Shield Civilians to Win in Gaza

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon on November 22, 2023 - AFP
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon on November 22, 2023 - AFP

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday urged Israel to protect civilians as it battles Hamas in Gaza, saying that shielding noncombatants is necessary for victory in the urban fight against the Palestinian group.

Fighting between Israel and Hamas resumed the day before after a week-long truce between the two sides collapsed, with both sides blaming the other for the breakdown of the deal and the resumption of violence.

Austin told the Reagan National Defense Forum in California that he had "learned a thing or two about urban warfare" while fighting in Iraq and leading the campaign against ISIS, AFP reported.

"Like Hamas, ISIS was deeply embedded in urban areas. And the international coalition against ISIS worked hard to protect civilians and create humanitarian corridors, even during the toughest battles," Austin said.

"The lesson is not that you can win in urban warfare by protecting civilians. The lesson is that you can only win in urban warfare by protecting civilians," he said.

"In this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat."



Media Outlets Call For Protection of Gaza Journalists

A mourner reacts as Palestinians attend the funeral of Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, who according to the Arabic broadcaster was killed by an Israeli drone strike while reporting on bombing of a school sheltering displaced people. (Reuters)
A mourner reacts as Palestinians attend the funeral of Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, who according to the Arabic broadcaster was killed by an Israeli drone strike while reporting on bombing of a school sheltering displaced people. (Reuters)
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Media Outlets Call For Protection of Gaza Journalists

A mourner reacts as Palestinians attend the funeral of Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, who according to the Arabic broadcaster was killed by an Israeli drone strike while reporting on bombing of a school sheltering displaced people. (Reuters)
A mourner reacts as Palestinians attend the funeral of Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, who according to the Arabic broadcaster was killed by an Israeli drone strike while reporting on bombing of a school sheltering displaced people. (Reuters)

More than 30 news organizations signed an open letter Thursday expressing solidarity with journalists working in Gaza and calling for their protection and freedom to report.

The letter, coordinated by the Committee to Protect Journalists, was signed by global news agencies AFP, AP and Reuters, as well as other leading media outlets including the New York Times, BBC News and Israel's Haaretz.

"For nearly five months, journalists and media workers in Gaza -- overwhelmingly, the sole source of on-the-ground reporting from within the Palestinian territory -- have been working in unprecedented conditions," the letter said.

It noted that at least 89 journalists and media workers in Gaza have been killed in the war, according to the CPJ.

The Israel-Hamas war began following an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel's retaliatory military campaign has killed 30,035 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

"Journalists are civilians and Israeli authorities must protect journalists as noncombatants according to international law," said the letter, also signed by the Association for International Broadcasters and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

"Those responsible for any violations of that longstanding protection should be held accountable,"

AFP has had a bureau and staff in Gaza for several decades.

Before the start of the war, the agency had a full bureau in Gaza City of 10 people, including text, photo and video reporters as well as administrative and technical staff.

The staff were all evacuated with their families to southern Gaza in early October when the Israeli army ordered Gaza City residents to move south. The office was subsequently damaged by an Israeli strike.

Several staff still remain in southern Gaza in precarious conditions.


Two PKK-linked Fighters Killed In Iraq Strike Blamed On Türkiye

A member of the PKK carries an automatic rifle on a road in Iraq's Qandil Mountains in 2018. (AFP)
A member of the PKK carries an automatic rifle on a road in Iraq's Qandil Mountains in 2018. (AFP)
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Two PKK-linked Fighters Killed In Iraq Strike Blamed On Türkiye

A member of the PKK carries an automatic rifle on a road in Iraq's Qandil Mountains in 2018. (AFP)
A member of the PKK carries an automatic rifle on a road in Iraq's Qandil Mountains in 2018. (AFP)

A Turkish drone strike in northwestern Iraq killed two members of a group affiliated to Türkiye's outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) Thursday, said Kurdish authorities.

The fighters were members of the Sinjar Resistance Units, a group founded among the district's Yazidi community in response to a brutal occupation by the ISIS group nearly a decade ago.

There was no immediate word from the Turkish military, which has conducted deadly strikes against PKK targets in Iraq and neighbouring Syria but rarely comments on individual strikes, AFP reported.

"A Turkish army drone targeted a vehicle of the Sinjar Resistance Units in the region of Wardiya in southern Sinjar, killing an official and a fighter who was escorting him," the counterterrorism services of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region said in a statement.

Another fighter was injured.

Sinjar and its adjacent mountains are one of the heartlands of Iraq's Yazidi community.

The Sinjar Resistance Units were formed in 2014 with help from fellow Kurds of the PKK, which Ankara and its Western allies consider a "terrorist" organization.

Türkiye frequently carries out ground and air offensives on positions of the PKK -- which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state -- in northern Iraq.

It also has over the past 25 years operated several dozen military bases in northern Iraq in its war against the PKK.


Libya Repatriates 144 Irregular Migrants to Bangladesh

Libya repatriated a group of 144 irregular migrants from Libya to Bangladesh (International Organization for Migration)
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Libya Repatriates 144 Irregular Migrants to Bangladesh

Libya repatriated a group of 144 irregular migrants from Libya to Bangladesh (International Organization for Migration)

Libya repatriated a group of 144 irregular migrants to Bangladesh via the UN-sponsored voluntary return program, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The IOM Libya office said in a press release on Thursday “144 vulnerable migrants in need were able to return home safely form Benghazi, Libya to Dhaka, Bangladesh with support from IOM Libya’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance program.”

In Dhaka, the migrants will continue to receive reintegration assistance, the release said.

Amid the frequent return of irregular migrants from Libya to their home countries via the UN Voluntary Return Program, experts question whether their deportation contributes to the reduction of their numbers in Libyan cities.

Last week, the IOM said that in 2024, it assisted over 9,300 migrants for safe, voluntary returns home, including counseling, medical care, and protection upon departure.

However, Libyan human rights observers say that the mechanism adopted by IOM to repatriate the irregular migrants remains not sufficient to address the migration file, which constitutes a challenge for most successive Libyan governments.

Meanwhile, a report conducted by Frontex, responsible for coordinating Europe's border guards, showed that from 2009 to 2023, at least 70,906 Bangladeshis have entered Europe via the Central Mediterranean route from Libya.

The secretary-general of the National Organization for Human Rights (NOHR), Abdel Moneim El-Hor, acknowledges that the IOM Libya’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance program, which finances and manages the repatriation of irregular migrants, helps the Libyan State to address this file.

However, he said, the IOM efforts “target only a specific category of migrants, who are present in official detention centers.” He explained that this category constitutes only a small part of the total number of irregular migrants residing in Libya.

El-Hor said there are 29 detention centers for irregular migrants in Libya while the IOM estimates the presence of around 700,000 migrants across the country.

Also, while thousands of migrants have been repatriated from Libya to their home countries, a source from the irregular migration service in Tripoli, told Asharq Al-Awsat that based on numbers published by the Italian news agency Agenzia Nova, a total of 51,700 irregular migrants were capable to land on the Italian coast last year.

The same source defended the efforts of the anti-migration agencies in Libya, saying that they already arrested dozens of human trafficking rings.


Deaths in Gaza Pass 30,000, Witnesses Say Israeli Forces Fire on Crowd Waiting for Aid

People mourn following an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza City on February 29, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
People mourn following an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza City on February 29, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Deaths in Gaza Pass 30,000, Witnesses Say Israeli Forces Fire on Crowd Waiting for Aid

People mourn following an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza City on February 29, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
People mourn following an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza City on February 29, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli troops fired on a large crowd of Palestinians racing to pull food off an aid convoy in Gaza City on Thursday, witnesses said. More than 100 people were killed, bringing the death toll since the start of the Israel-Hamas war to more than 30,000, according to health officials.

Israeli officials acknowledged that troops opened fire, saying they did so after the crowd approached in a threatening way. The officials insisted on anonymity to give details about what happened, after the military said in a statement that “dozens were killed and injured from pushing, trampling and being run over by the trucks.”

Gaza City and the surrounding areas in the enclave's north were the first targets of Israel’s air, sea and ground offensive, launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

While many Palestinians fled the Israeli invasion in the north, a few hundred thousand are believed to remain in the area, which has suffered widespread devastation and has been largely isolated during the conflict.

Trucks carrying food reached northern Gaza this week, the first major aid delivery to the area in a month, officials said Wednesday.

Aid groups say it has become nearly impossible to deliver humanitarian assistance in most of Gaza because of the difficulty of coordinating with the Israeli military, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of public order, with crowds of desperate people overwhelming aid convoys. The UN says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians face starvation; around 80% have fled their homes.

Kamel Abu Nahel, who was being treated for a gunshot wound at Shifa Hospital, said he and others went to the distribution point in the middle of the night because they heard there would be a delivery of food. “We've been eating animal feed for two months,” he said.

He said Israeli troops opened fire on the crowd as people pulled boxes of flour and canned goods off the trucks, causing them to scatter, with some hiding under cars. After the shooting stopped, people went back to the trucks, and the soldiers opened fire again. He was shot in the leg and fell over, and then a truck ran over his leg as it sped off, he said.

Alaa Abu Daiya, a witness to the violence, said Israeli troops opened fire and also that a tank fired a shell.

Medics arriving at the scene on Thursday found “dozens or hundreds” lying on the ground, according to Fares Afana, the head of the ambulance service at Kamal Adwan Hospital. He said there were not enough ambulances to collect all the dead and wounded and that some were being brought to hospitals in donkey carts.

Another man in the crowd — who gave only his first name, Ahmad, as he was being treated at a hospital for gunshot wounds to the arm and leg — said he waited for two hours before someone with a horse-pulled cart had room to take him to Shifa.

Dr. Mohammed Salha, the acting director of the Al-Awda Hospital, said the facility received 161 wounded patients, most of whom appeared to have been shot. He said the hospital can perform only the most essential surgeries because it is running out of fuel to power emergency generators.
In addition to at least 104 people killed, around 760 were wounded, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said. The Health Ministry described it as a “massacre.”
Separately, the Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll from the war has climbed to 30,035, with another 70,457 wounded.


Austrian FM Urges Israel, Hezbollah Against Escalating the Conflict

Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib, right, meets with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib, right, meets with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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Austrian FM Urges Israel, Hezbollah Against Escalating the Conflict

Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib, right, meets with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib, right, meets with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Austria’s foreign minister on Thursday urged Israel and Hezbollah against escalating the conflict along the Israel-Lebanon border.
The Middle East has witnessed enough devastation and cruelty, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said after meeting his Lebanese counterpart in Beirut.
Schallenberg said he came to Lebanon after visiting Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Since the Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7, Hezbollah started attacking Israeli posts, drawing return fire from Israel in daily exchanges. More than 210 Hezbollah fighters and nearly 40 civilians have been killed since then on the Lebanese side.
In Israel, nine soldiers and nine civilians have been killed in Hezbollah attacks since Oct. 7.
“Everybody is asked not to escalate and it always takes two sides,” Schallenberg said.
“The region has accounted enough devastation, enough cruelty and we should try to solve the problems and not create further problems,” he added.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib called for a deal for a disputed stretch of the Israel-Lebanon border, similar to the deal reached through US mediation in 2022 over the two countries' disputed maritime border. He said the problem can be solved when Israel withdraws from disputed areas, including Shebaa Farms, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967.
“Israel would return all the Lebanese land to us and then the problem of Hezbollah and Israel will be at least partly solved,” Bouhabib said.


Israeli Strike Hits Hezbollah Truck Near Lebanese-Syrian Border, Kills at Least One Fighter

A damaged building following a missile strike in Damascus, Syria, 21 February 2024. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
A damaged building following a missile strike in Damascus, Syria, 21 February 2024. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
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Israeli Strike Hits Hezbollah Truck Near Lebanese-Syrian Border, Kills at Least One Fighter

A damaged building following a missile strike in Damascus, Syria, 21 February 2024. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
A damaged building following a missile strike in Damascus, Syria, 21 February 2024. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI

An Israeli strike hit a Hezbollah truck near the Lebanese-Syrian border on Thursday killing at least one fighter, a security source familiar with the Iran-aligned group told Reuters.

Israel has been carrying out an unprecedented wave of deadly strikes in Syria targeting cargo trucks, infrastructure and people involved in Iran's weapons lifeline to its proxies in the region, sources with direct knowledge of the matter had previously told Reuters.

The sources said Israel had shifted strategies following the Oct. 7 rampage by Hamas fighters into Israeli territory and the ensuing Israeli bombing campaigns in Gaza and Lebanon.


Israel Says it's Still Reviewing Access to Al Aqsa During Ramadan

A Muslim woman uses her phone to take a picture of the Dome of the Rock shrine, at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
A Muslim woman uses her phone to take a picture of the Dome of the Rock shrine, at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
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Israel Says it's Still Reviewing Access to Al Aqsa During Ramadan

A Muslim woman uses her phone to take a picture of the Dome of the Rock shrine, at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
A Muslim woman uses her phone to take a picture of the Dome of the Rock shrine, at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Israel is reviewing possible curbs on access to Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem over the upcoming Ramadan fasting month, a government spokesperson said after media reports that the far-right minister for police might be overruled on the issue.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said last week there would be a quota for members of Israel's 18% Muslim minority who wish to take part in peace prayers at Al Aqsa.

That would compound the clampdown Israel has already placed on Palestinians since the Hamas' cross-border rampage from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, codenamed "Al Aqsa Flood", which triggered the ongoing Gaza war.

But Israel's top-rated Channel 12 TV reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would overrule Ben-Gvir.

"The specific issue of prayer on the Temple Mount, in Al Aqsa, is currently still under discussion by the cabinet," government spokesperson Avi Hyman said in a briefing on Thursday.

He added that a final decision would take security and public health, as well as the freedom of worship, into account.

A Ben-Gvir spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. On Wednesday, Ben-Gvir posted on X that any attempt to override his authority would amount to a "capitulation to terror", and urged Netanyahu to deny the Channel 12 report.


US Concerns Rising of an Israeli Ground Incursion into Lebanon

Smoke rises from a site hit by an airstrike after, what Lebanon's state media said, was a series of Israeli strikes, near the town of Ghaziyeh on Lebanon's coast around 60 km north of the border with Israel, Lebanon February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Hassan Hankir
Smoke rises from a site hit by an airstrike after, what Lebanon's state media said, was a series of Israeli strikes, near the town of Ghaziyeh on Lebanon's coast around 60 km north of the border with Israel, Lebanon February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Hassan Hankir
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US Concerns Rising of an Israeli Ground Incursion into Lebanon

Smoke rises from a site hit by an airstrike after, what Lebanon's state media said, was a series of Israeli strikes, near the town of Ghaziyeh on Lebanon's coast around 60 km north of the border with Israel, Lebanon February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Hassan Hankir
Smoke rises from a site hit by an airstrike after, what Lebanon's state media said, was a series of Israeli strikes, near the town of Ghaziyeh on Lebanon's coast around 60 km north of the border with Israel, Lebanon February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Hassan Hankir

Officials in the US administration and intelligence voiced concerns over a possible Israeli plan to carry out a land inclusion into Lebanon in the late spring or early summer if diplomatic efforts with Hezbollah fail to make it retreat from Israel’s north border.
CNN quoted a senior Biden administration official as saying: “We are operating on the assumption that an Israeli military operation is in the coming months. Not necessarily imminently in the next few weeks but perhaps later this spring. An Israeli military operation is a distinct possibility”, he said.
“I think what Israel is doing is they are raising this threat in the hope that there will be a negotiated agreement,” said the senior official, who has heard differing opinions within the Israeli government about the need to go into Lebanon.
“Some Israeli officials suggest that it is more of an effort at creating a threat that they can utilize. Others speak of it more as a military necessity that’s going to happen,” the official said.
Another senior official in the Biden administration said some officials in the Israeli government and army support a ground incursion into Lebanon.
Since October, around 80 thousand Israelis have been displaced from North Israel.
“The State of Israel will not return to the pre-war status quo in which Hezbollah poses a direct and immediate military threat to its security along the Israel-Lebanon border”, the Israeli embassy in Washington wrote.
Another person familiar with the US intelligence said: “There are fears this will grow to an expansive air campaign reaching much further north into populated areas of Lebanon and eventually grow to a ground component as well”.
Israel‘s top general Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi visited the northern border Tuesday and said that Hezbollah “must pay a heavy price” for its actions since October 7.


Egypt's President Praises Gulf Support

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi during the "Differently Abled" event in New Cairo (Egyptian presidential website)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi during the "Differently Abled" event in New Cairo (Egyptian presidential website)
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Egypt's President Praises Gulf Support

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi during the "Differently Abled" event in New Cairo (Egyptian presidential website)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi during the "Differently Abled" event in New Cairo (Egyptian presidential website)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi thanked the UAE and its President, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, for the vast Emirati investment deal as part of the Ras el-Hekma project.
On Friday, Egypt signed an investment partnership agreement with the United Arab Emirates to develop the Ras al-Hikma peninsula west of Alexandria, with investments worth $150 billion. It includes pumping about $35 billion in direct foreign investment into the Egyptian treasury within two months.
"I want to thank our brothers in the UAE, led by my brother, his Excellency the President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed," Sisi said while attending a "Differently Abled" event in New Cairo.
"I want to tell you it is not easy for anyone to deposit $35 billion over two months; there is nothing like that in the world ... This is a form of support and standing (with us), clearly," Sisi added.
He pointed out that every measure, problem, or crisis that occurs anywhere in the world has an impact on Egypt, referring to the COVID-19 crisis, which was followed by the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and then the Israeli war against the Gaza Strip.
Egypt is struggling to provide the foreign currency necessary to import goods and has to meet the deadlines for foreign debt maturities and a budget deficit.
Sisi announced that the Central Bank received the first tranche of UAE's multi billion-US dollar investment on Tuesday, and the second tranche will arrive on Friday.
According to the Egyptian Official Gazette, Sisi issued a presidential decree allocating a plot of state-owned land with an area of 170.8 million square meters in the Matrouh governorate to develop Ras el-Hekma city.
Egypt hopes this project will become "the largest tourism project on the Mediterranean."
- Difficult challenges
The Egyptian President stated that the world and region face numerous challenges and crises, necessitating unity, resilience, and action.
"We have chosen the path of patience, sacrifice, and confidence in our abilities, inspired by the determination and success of our people, especially our children."
- Egypt did not close Rafah crossing
Sisi asserted that his country has always kept the Rafah border crossing with Gaza open.
"Egypt has never closed the crossing, but to be able to act in a fighting situation, we have to be cautious not to cause a problem," he said.
"From the first day, we have been very keen that the Rafah crossing becomes an avenue to deliver aid."


Germany Attacks Houthi Targets for the First Time

The US and the UK launched hundreds of air strikes against Houthis targets (Reuters)
The US and the UK launched hundreds of air strikes against Houthis targets (Reuters)
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Germany Attacks Houthi Targets for the First Time

The US and the UK launched hundreds of air strikes against Houthis targets (Reuters)
The US and the UK launched hundreds of air strikes against Houthis targets (Reuters)

Germany deployed a naval frigate to the Red Sea for the first time to confront Houthi attacks, becoming the second European country, after France, to carry out such operations.
Since Jan. 12, the United States and the UK began launching strikes against the Houthis, who say they are launching attacks in support of the Palestinians in Gaza and to prevent the navigation of ships linked to Israel.
The Western strikes have included over 300 raids targeting Houthi sites in Sanaa, Hodeidah, Taiz, Hajjah, Saada, and Dhamar.
However, the Houthi group said they did not impact its military capabilities, saying the strikes were merely to "save face."
The German army said in a statement on the "X" platform that the Hessen frigate of the Navy shot down two drones at two separate times without any casualties.
On Feb. 19, the European Union launched Operation "Aspides" to preserve freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Meanwhile, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed in a statement that the US aircraft and a coalition warship shot down five Iranian-backed Houthi unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the Red Sea.
CENTCOM forces identified these UAVs originating from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined they presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and the US Navy and coalition ships in the region.
"These actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for US Navy and merchant vessels."
The UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKTMO) said it had received a report of an incident 60NM west of Hodeidah. The vessel and the crew are reported to be safe and proceeding to the next port of call.
The rocket was sighted on the vessel's starboard side, which then exploded 3-4NM from the port bow, read the statement.
Meanwhile, the Houthi media reported that the US and the UK targeted the group's site on Labwan Island in Hodeidah.
- British warning
On Wednesday, Britain warned of an environmental catastrophe as a result of the Houthi attack on the MV Rubymar vessel, which is now at risk of leaking into the Red Sea.
"Despite years of international effort to avert a crisis with the FSO SAFER, the Houthis are threatening another environmental disaster with the reckless attack on the MV Rubymar," said UK on X platform.
The Yemeni government called on international aid to prevent the ship from sinking in the Red Sea, as this threatens an environmental disaster.
Yemeni officials said the vessel is at risk of drowning within days as water leaks into it.
The government asserted that Western strikes against the Houthis would be of no use in limiting the military group's capabilities and that the alternative is to support the legitimate forces to restore the state.
Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak denied the Houthi narrative regarding the naval attacks.
According to official media, bin Mubarak believes the Houthi attacks have nothing to do with supporting the Palestinian people and their just cause.
The Houthis admitted that 22 militants were killed in the Western strikes, in addition to ten who were killed on Dec. 31 in the Red Sea, after the US Navy destroyed their boats in response to their attempt to seize a vessel.
Last December, Washington launched Operation Prosperity Guardian to protect navigation in the Red Sea before launching 25 strikes against the Houthis and carrying out dozens of operations to confront Houthi missiles, drones, and explosive boats.