by Lilach Shoval, Eli Leon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
If Iran blocks Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which leads into Red Sea, it will face international coalition that includes "all of Israel's military branches," PM Netanyahu says
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the naval officers' graduation
in Haifa, WednesdayPhoto: Haim Zach / GPO
Israel would deploy its military as part of an international coalition to stop an attempt by Iran to block the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that leads into the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Wednesday.
Last week, Saudi Arabia said it was suspending oil shipments through the strategic strait after Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis attacked two ships in the waterway.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in a three-year-old proxy war in Yemen, which lies on one side of Bab el-Mandeb.
Yemen's Houthis, who have previously threatened to block the strait, said last week they had the naval capability to hit Saudi ports and other Red Sea targets.
Iran has not threatened to block Bab el-Mandeb but has said it will block the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, if it is prevented from exporting oil.
Speaking at a separate event, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel had "recently heard of threats to harm Israeli ships in the Red Sea." He gave no additional details.
Ships mainly from Asia pass through Bab el-Mandeb heading for Eilat in Israel. Ships also pass through the strait heading for Aqaba in Jordan and some Saudi destinations, as well as to continue on through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea.
The strait is just 29 kilometers (18 miles) wide, making hundreds of ships potentially an easy target. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said an estimated 4.8 million barrels per day of crude oil and products flowed through it in 2016.
Israel has previously attacked Iranian forces in Syria and has insisted that they leave Syria completely. They have withdrawn to a distance of 85 kilometers (53 miles) from the Israeli Golan Heights, Russia's special envoy to Syria said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, senior Iranian officials and military commanders on Tuesday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's offer of talks without preconditions as worthless and "a dream," saying his words contradict his actions in reimposing sanctions on Iran.
Israeli officials dismissed allegations that the declaration caught Israel by surprise.
Iran's currency plummeted to new depths on Monday, dropping below 120,000 rials to the dollar, but Trump's expressed willingness to negotiate with Iran sparked a minor recovery on Tuesday to 110,000 rials on the unofficial market.
Videos on social media showed hundreds of people rallying in Isfahan in central Iran, and Karaj near Tehran, in protest against high prices caused in part by the rial's devaluation under heightened U.S. pressure.
Lilach Shoval, Eli Leon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
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