Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that any attempt by Iran to block the Straits of Bab al-Mandab at the mouth of the Red Sea would be met by an international coalition that would include Israel.
"Earlier this week, we witnessed a sharp clash with Iran's satellites who tried to sabotage international shipping in the Straits at the mouth of the Red Sea," Netanyahu said at a graduation ceremony for naval officers.
A huge tanker with a shipment of oil from Saudi Arabia bound for Egypt was damaged by a missile attack from the Bab el-Mandab strait on Thursday. The Houthi rebels in Yemen, armed and financed by Iran, were responsible for the attack, which took place in the wake of a renewed exchange of threats between the U.S. and Iran.
"If Iran tries to block the Straits of Bab al-Mandab, it will find itself facing an international coalition determined to prevent it from doing so, and this coalition will also include the State of Israel and all its arms," Netanyahu warned.
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Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also spoke at the graduation ceremony, saying, "recently, we have heard of threats to harm Israeli ships in the Red Sea."
Lieberman continued: "I would like to emphasize: the Israeli military is ready to respond simultaneously on two fronts, and also on the Red Sea. Only in that case we would be less selective and the harm to our enemies would be greater. I hope they take that into account."
The tanker that was hit last week, the Arsan, was flying a Saudi flag and transporting some 2 million barrels of oil to Egypt. It was struck by missiles near the port of Hodeida in Yemen where Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been attacking the Houthis for the past few months.
According to the Washington Institute the tankers were hit by a rocket fired from a fast-attack vessel or a ground-to-sea missile fired from Yemen, possibly a C-802, which Iran supplies to the rebels. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack and the Saudis announced that they were suspending tanker shipments in the Red Sea until the situation was sorted out and marine traffic was safe again. The Washington Institute researchers wrote that the Red Sea is the third most important shipping lane in the word (the first is Hormuz in the Persian Gulf).
The incident happened in the midst of a typical Twitter duel between U.S. President Donald Trump and the Iranian leadership, during which the Iranians threatened to disrupt international oil shipments if the United States imposes sanctions that hurt the Iranian oil industry. The commander of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, has accused Saudi Arabia over the past few days of responsibility for the “unsafe” conditions in the Red Sea.