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French military escorting French ships through Red Sea - naval commander

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French naval forces are accompanying ships with French interests through the Red Sea region, the country's top naval commander in the area said on Thursday, adding that Paris' current mandate did not include striking Houthi rebels directly.

The Iran-aligned Houthis, who control most of Yemen, have been targeting Red Sea shipping routes © Mena Today 

French naval forces are accompanying ships with French interests through the Red Sea region, the country's top naval commander in the area said on Thursday, adding that Paris' current mandate did not include striking Houthi rebels directly.

The Iran-aligned Houthis, who control most of Yemen, have been targeting Red Sea shipping routes to show their support for Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which is fighting Israel in Gaza.

Speaking to reporters, Rear-Admiral Emmanuel Slaars, joint commander of French forces in the region, said France was working closely with the US-led Prosperity Guardian mission in the area by exchanging information and carrying out patrols, but said command of French forces remained entirely under Paris' control.

"The French operation consists of on the one hand patrolling the maritime zones where the Houthis operate to stop them," Slaars said. "These patrols are in coordination with the Prosperity Guardian operation," he said.

"On the other hand, we regularly escort French-flagged ships or with French interests in the Red Sea. We accompany them all along their crossing."

Slaars, who also heads the EU's mission of nine countries operating in the Strait of Hormuz, said there was always a need for more military assets in the region, although France did not intend to deploy more for now.

He said international military operations were producing results and that 80% of container traffic was still going through the Bab Al-Mandab straits between Yemen and Djibouti.

Reporting by John Irish; editing by Sharon Singleton

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