US naval ship in the Red Sea
Houthi rebels have blockaded international shipping lanes in the Red Sea in support of Palestine. Image by AP PHOTO
  • international law

Australia involved in strikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen

Tess Ikonomou January 12, 2024

A decision by Australia to take part in strikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen was not taken lightly, the defence minister says.

The missile attacks were launched by the US and UK in response to the Iran-backed group blockading international shipping lanes in the Red Sea in support of Palestine.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said the government would continue to support any actions that asserted the global rules-based order and freedom of navigation.

A file photo of Richard Marles
 Richard Marles would not confirm details of Australia’s involvement in the Yemen action. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

“These are very important actions,” he told reporters in Geelong.

“The actions that have been taken today, supported by Australia, are about maintaining freedom of navigation on the high seas.

“They are about maintaining global trade, and that is completely central to Australia’s national interest.

“This decision was not taken lightly.”

Mr Marles would not confirm details of Australia’s involvement, revealed by US President Joe Biden in a statement which also indicated the participation of Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands.

“These strikes are in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea – including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history,” Mr Biden said.

Australia’s support of the strikes included Defence personnel in a non-operational role, who were in the operational headquarters.

The government considered a US request to deploy a warship to the region but instead sent a contingent of ADF members.

A file photo of Barnaby Joyce
 Barnaby Joyce says the federal government should not back a legal case against Israel. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Malcolm Davis said ADF personnel involved would have been in Bahrain at the joint maritime task force headquarters.

Dr Davis said those personnel were working on operational planning purposes, including helping co-ordinate air and naval forces.

“The diplomatic support that we’ve given to the Americans, that’s also been important,” he said.

Greens spokesman David Shoebridge slammed the bombing as an “effective death sentence for thousands of people” who relied on the Yemeni port to receive food and medicine following a decade of conflict.

He said the government had given up “any pretence at independence” from the US.

Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce on Friday urged the Albanese government not to back legal action accusing Israel of genocide.

The International Court of Justice is hearing South Africa’s case against Israel for its actions in Gaza.

Mr Joyce said Australia should not support the case against Israel and took a swipe at South Africa for violence within its borders.

Independent senator David Pocock has called on Labor to support the case, pointing to the “extraordinary scale” of human suffering in Gaza including the deaths of children, health workers and journalists.

War has raged for almost 100 days after more than 1200 Israelis were killed and 240 others taken hostage by Hamas on October 7.

More than 23,000 Palestinians have since been killed by the Israeli military, according to the local health ministry, with the UN warning half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are at risk of starvation.

Oxfam said Israel’s military was killing Palestinians at an average rate of 250 people a day, far exceeding the death toll of any other major 21st-century conflict.