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Israel makes rare threat of military intervention in Bab el-Mandeb

This file photo shows an oil tanker crossing Bab-el-Mandeb Strait.

Israel has for the first time publicly threatened to intervene militarily in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait which is under the de facto control of Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would order such an action as part of “an international coalition,” Ha’aretz reported.

Netanyahu, however, claimed that its military action would be targeting Iran which has never made an assertion of trying to intervene in the strait.

"If Iran tries to block the Straits of Bab al-Mandeb, it will find itself facing an international coalition determined to prevent it from doing so," he said.

Saudi Arabia claimed last week that it had temporarily suspended all oil shipments through Bab el-Mandeb following attacks by Houthi fighters.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said two Saudi very large crude carriers (VLCCs), each carrying two million barrels of oil, had been attacked in the Red Sea.

The Houthis said the targets were Saudi Arabia's al-Dammam military frigate, and a boat deployed by the kingdom in the ongoing aggression against Yemen.

Market watchers also disputed Riyadh's allegations that its exports through Bab el-Mandeb had been halted. 

Netanyahu, however, stuck to the Saudi version of the events in an address to a group of naval commanders as he warned of a coalition that "would include Israel in all its branches.”  

"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," he said. 

The Houthis have been defending Yemen against a three-year war by a Saudi-led coalition which has been fighting to restore a former government backed by Riyadh. 

Over the past years, various reports have pointed to secret dealings between Israel and Saudi Arabia, especially under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Last month, Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said the Saudi coalition was implementing the Israeli agenda in the region.

In June, he said Israeli warplanes had been detected flying over the key Yemeni port city of Hudaydah which is currently subject to a Saudi and UAE blitzkrieg.

"Yemen is actually fighting against a Saudi-Zionist coalition," he said, referring to a military campaign which Riyadh has been carrying out against Yemen since 2015.

Several Western countries, the US and the UK in particular, are widely known to be helping Saudi Arabia in the aggression, but Israel's public announcement of involvement in the conflict adds new dynamics to the turmoil.

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