Iran’s Khamenei calls for vigilance and readiness after US warnings

Supreme leader's statement came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tehran's support to Houthis in Yemen must end

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prays at the coffin of Islamic Revolution Guards Corps military adviser Razi Mousavi, in Tehran on December 28.  Iranian supreme leader's office
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Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the “Resistance Front” on Wednesday to stay vigilant and to continue their attacks amid fears of Gaza war escalation.

Mr Khamenei’s statement came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it had been made clear to Iran that support to the Houthis in Yemen, who have been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea, must end.

“Let the ‘Resistance Front’ on alert while facing the usurpation and arrogance,” Mr Khamenei said on the X social platform.

He was referring to the Tehran-backed network that encompasses militant groups in Palestine, Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Syrian government.

“Do not neglect the enemy’s deception and strike where its hand reaches with the help of Allah,” Mr Khamenei said.

During his visit to Bahrain, the latest stop in a Middle East tour seeking to calm the region, Mr Blinken said that there will be consequences for continued attacks on commercial shipping lanes in the Red Sea by the Houthis.

"We've also repeatedly tried to make clear to Iran, as other countries have as well, that the support that they're providing to the Houthis, including for these actions, needs to stop," Mr Blinken told reporters.

"These attacks have been aided and abetted by Iran with technology, equipment, intelligence, information, and they are having a real-life impact on people."

The Houthis, who control much of Yemen, have disrupted world trade for weeks with attacks on ships passing through the Bab Al Mandeb strait at the southern end of the Red Sea in what they say is a response to Israel's war in Gaza.

Several shipping lines have suspended operations through the Red Sea in response to the attacks, instead taking the longer journey around Africa.

The Houthis have vowed to continue their attacks until Israel halts the conflict in Gaza, and warned that they would attack US warships if the militia group was targeted.

On Tuesday night, Houthis fired their largest barrage of drones and missiles at shipping in the Red Sea, forcing the US and British navies to shoot them down in a major naval engagement.

The US military’s Central Command said the “complex attack” launched by the Houthis included bomb-carrying drones, anti-ship cruise missiles and one anti-ship ballistic missile.

It said 18 drones, two cruise missiles and the anti-ship missile were shot down.

“This is the 26th Houthi attack on commercial shipping lanes in the Red Sea since November 19,” Central Command said. “There were no injuries or damage reported.”

Iran's proxy groups have increased attacks in the region to show solidarity with Gaza, which has been under Israeli bombardment since Hamas's attack that killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, in Israel on October 7.

Gaza's Health Ministry says more than 23,000 people have been killed in the strip since then.

In Iraq, Tehran-allied Shiite militias have been attacking US forces in the country and in neighbouring Syria with drones and rockets because of Washington's support for Israel in the war.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah has been engaging with Israeli troops on the borders.

Updated: January 10, 2024, 9:42 PM