Israel-Gaza: Australia told to answer major US warship request as Red Sea rebel attacks escalate

The Coalition has urged the federal government to answer a US request for Australia to deploy a navy warship to the Middle East.

On Thursday, the defence minister confirmed he was considering sending Australian navy personnel to assist the US following a series of missile and drone attacks launched by Iranian-backed rebels in the Red Sea.

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said leading naval commanders were “ready and willing” and demanded that the government urgently respond.

“The Red Sea is an important strategic passage as are the waters closer to our region. But this is a request from our closest ally, for something that is critical to world peace and our own geostrategic interests, and AUKUS underscores the strength of that alliance,” Ms Ley said.

“So why have we not heard from the government, why have we just heard this obfuscation? “We need to have an answer and if that’s not going to be the case, that we’re not going to send a warship, we need to know why not.”

The request was made through the US Combined Maritime Force in Bahrain this week, after the Iranian-backed Houthi militia claimed responsibility for attacking a Norwegian-flagged oil tanker off the coast of Yemen.

Escalating rebel attacks on ships sailing through the Red Sea during the Israel-Hamas war has raised concerns that global trade will be impacted and that conflict could spread further out into the region.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said Australia would consider the US request “in due course” but stressed that the nation’s naval efforts were “in our immediate region”.

“There are Australians who are embedded in that headquarters right now and in the past, we have sent navy vessels to participate in the activities of the [combined maritime force],” he said.

“We will consider this in the normal course and work through with the Americans about how we can best contribute.”

Australia last sent a naval vessel to the Middle East in 2020.

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