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Italy’s Navy Downs Suspected Houthi Drone Headed for Red Sea Merchant Vessel

An Italian navy frigate shot down a drone in the Red Sea headed in the direction of an escorted merchant ship, Italy’s defense ministry said Monday.

The Virginio Fasan frigate, which was protecting a European commercial freighter, shot down the drone Monday morning near the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait, said the ministry in a press release.

“The drone, with similar characteristics to those already used in previous Houthi attacks, was about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the Italian ship, in the direction of the escorted merchant ship,” it said.

The ministry said “complex attacks with missiles and drones” had earlier occurred in the morning, but they “were foiled thanks to evasive maneuvers carried out by the merchant ship,” following instructions from the naval frigate.

A missile that exploded in the water near the escorted ship caused only minor surface damage, it said, adding that the Fasan and merchant ship were “continuing as planned on their route.”

Italy has operational command of the “Aspides” mission, launched by the EU in February to protect merchant vessels transiting the vital Red Sea trade route from attacks by Iran-backed Houthis.

The Houthis, who have vowed to target Israeli, British, and American ships, as well as vessels heading to Israeli ports, say their campaign is intended to signal solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

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