Iran threatens to close Mediterranean Sea citing US ‘crimes’ in Gaza

Dec 23, 2023

Iran threatened Saturday that the Mediterranean Sea could be “closed” if the U.S. and Israel continued “crimes” in Gaza, state media reported, according to Reuters.

The Iranian government has showed support for the militant group Hamas in its war against Israel, while the U.S. has strongly backed Israel — despite growing criticism of the Israeli military’s war effort.

“They shall soon await the closure of the Mediterranean Sea, [the Strait of] Gibraltar and other waterways,” state media Tasnim quoted Iranian Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi as saying.

Iran has accused the Israeli military, and the U.S. as its close ally, of committing war crimes in Gaza. More than 20,000 Palestinians have died in the conflict since early October, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The Biden administration has pressed the Israeli military to step back from major military operations amid the rising civilian death toll and international pressure.

It is unclear how Iran would follow through on such a threat, as the country has no direct access to the Mediterranean Sea and no major naval presence outside the Persian Gulf.

Naqdi suggested attacks on Gibraltar would be an escalation of Red Sea attacks on shipping from Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Iran-backed rebel group launched attacks on cargo ships and U.S. warships near the Horn of Africa last week, stepping up operations in the years-long Yemeni civil war.

“Yesterday, the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz became a nightmare for them, and today they are trapped … in the Red Sea,” Naqdi said, referencing the Houthi attacks, according to state media.

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The Biden administration has faced pressure to strike back at the Yemeni group over the attacks. A Navy task force will be deployed to the region to protect shipping, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Monday.

Iran’s proxy groups in the eastern Mediterranean, Hezbollah in Lebanon and an allied group in Syria are not believed to have the capability of long-distance strikes.

Tansim reported that an Iran-backed group in Iraq attacked an Israeli natural gas facility off the coast of Israel earlier this week.

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