EU foreign ministers have approved the deployment of an EU naval mission to protect shipping from Houthi militants in the Red Sea, diplomats told dpa on February 19, Report informs.

Called Aspides after the ancient Greek word for shield, the naval mission involves sending European warships and airborne early warning systems to the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and surrounding waters.

Aspides vessels will have orders only to fire on the militants if they attack first, and will not be authorized to shoot pre-emptively. The operational command is to be in the Greek city of Larissa.

Houthi militants from Yemen have been attacking ships in the region in what they say is retaliation for Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip.

An EU official said on Friday that the country most harmed by the piracy is not Israel but Egypt, where declining traffic has caused a 40% loss of revenue for the Suez Canal Authority.

The European Union’s economy is taking a hit too: On Thursday, the EU’s Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentilioni told reporters that “as shipping through the Red Sea has been rerouted, delivery times for shipments between Asia and the EU have increased by 10-15 days, and the costs of these shipments have gone up by around 400%.”