COLOMBO: Cash-strapped Sri Lanka’s navy said Monday it was joining a US-led maritime taskforce to protect international shipping against attacks by Yemen’s Huthi rebels. “We will be joining ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ led by the US Navy,” naval spokesman Gayan Wickramasuriya said, with the deployment of a patrol vessel crewed by more than 100 people. Huthi fighters have launched more than 100 drone and missile attacks on targets in Israel and the Red Sea, disrupting traffic in the key shipping route that carries up to 12 percent of global trade. The Iran-backed Huthis say they are targeting Israel and Israeli-linked vessels to push for a stop to the offensive in the Gaza Strip, where Israel has been battling Hamas militants since October 7. Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that Huthi attacks had raised freight costs and were impacting exports of garments and tea. The South Asian island nation is emerging from its worst economic crisis in 2022, when months of street protests led to the ouster of then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.