France says shooting down drones in Red Sea is ‘legitimate defence’

France says Languedoc frigate fired at drones in ‘self-defense’ – Copyright AFP/File JULIEN DE ROSA, Jung Yeon-je

The French frigate that shot down two drones in the Red Sea was acting in self-defense after it was attacked by drones, the foreign ministry in Paris said on Monday.

The French General Staff announced on Sunday that the Languedoc frigate operating in the Red Sea opened fire on two drones headed directly towards it from the Yemeni coast, destroying both.

The incident came after Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels threatened on Saturday to attack all vessels bound for Israeli ports unless food and medicine were allowed into the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Foreign Office said the drones were involved in an “attack” on its vessel and were shot down in “legitimate defence”.

The incident occurred during “attacks and acts of piracy committed by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea”, which represented “an alarming increase in attacks on freedom of navigation in this zone”, he added.

The ministry urged the Houthis to “immediately stop attacks on civilians” and freedom of movement.

France was closely monitoring developments in the Red Sea and called on “all actors to avoid any regional flare-up”.

The General Staff said on Sunday that the drones were intercepted at 2030 GMT and 2230 GMT on Saturday, 110 kilometers (68 miles) off Yemen’s coast and the rebel-held port of Hudaydah.

The drones “were flying directly at the vessel,” the General Staff said.

The frigate was using Aster 15 surface-to-air missiles, designed to defend against short- to medium-range threats, a military source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

– tensions in the Red Sea –

The French Navy had not previously used surface-to-air missiles in self-defense.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tension in the Red Sea and surrounding waters following a series of naval attacks by Houthi rebels since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas on 7 March.

In a statement posted on social media, the Houthis said they would “prevent the passage of ships bound for the Zionist entity” if humanitarian aid is not allowed into Hamas-controlled Gaza.

The Houthis have recently attacked ships they say have direct links to Israel, but the latest threat widens the scope of their targets.

Hamas hailed the Houthis’ stance as “courageous and courageous”.

A U.S. destroyer shot down three drones earlier this month while providing aid to merchant ships in the Red Sea that Washington said had been targeted by attacks from Yemen.

It condemned what it described as a “direct threat” to maritime security.

Saturday’s incident was the first targeting of a French military vessel since Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7.

Israel responded to the Hamas attack with a merciless military offensive that Hamas officials say has killed thousands of people in the besieged Palestinian territory.

Yemen has a long coastline along the Gulf of Aden and the southern Red Sea, a strategic waterway to Israel in the north.

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