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Threat To Vital Oil Shipping Lane Escalates

The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels of Yemen have warned Israel and its allies that any ship crossing the Bab el-Mandeb Strait linking the Red Sea with the Arabian Sea will be considered “a legitimate target,” in the latest escalation of the threat to one of the world’s most important oil chokepoints.

“Allies of the Zionist enemy who ensure passage through Bab al-Mandab are also considered to be a legitimate target,” General Mohammad Fadl Abdelnabi, the commander of Houthi naval forces, said in a video aboard the Galaxy Leader, a cargo ship that the Iran-backed rebels seized earlier this week.

“We say to the Zionist entity that Bab al-Mandab is a red line... Every civilian or military (Israel-affiliated) ship is considered a legitimate target,” AFP quoted the Houthi commander as saying in the video posted on Twitter.

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is a sea route chokepoint between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea. Most exports of petroleum and natural gas from the Persian Gulf that transit the Suez Canal or the SUMED Pipeline pass through both the Bab el-Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz. 

The additional threat to commercial shipping in the Middle East comes days after the Houthi rebels seized a cargo ship linked to an Israeli company in the Red Sea. 

The seized vessel, Galaxy Leader, is owned by a company registered under Isle of Man-headquartered Ray Car Carriers – a unit of Tel Aviv-incorporated Ray Shipping, per LSEG data cited by Reuters.

Israel blamed directly Iran for the cargo ship seizure on Sunday, while Iran denied any involvement in the incident.

The latest Iran-Israel flare-up came days before the OPEC+ group of oil producers is set to decide next week their production policy for early next year after oil prices fell in each of the four past weeks.

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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