Iran's Khamenei calls on Muslim nations to block shipping to Israel

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Saturday it is the duty of the world's Muslim nations to prevent "goods, oil and fuel" from reaching Israel. File Photo by EPA-EFE

Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Iran's supreme leader on Saturday urged Muslim countries to prevent vital supplies from reaching Israel as the United States accused his country of "deep involvement" in attacks by Yemeni rebels against international shipping.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, during a meeting in Tehran with people from the Iranian provinces of Kerman and Khuzestan, denounced Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza as "bloodthirsty and cruel" and called on Islamic governments to take action against materiel heading to Israel.

It is the duty of Muslim nations "to prevent goods, oil and fuel from reaching the Zionist regime, the regime which itself has blocked off water access to the people of Gaza," Khamenei said, according to official news accounts.

At the same time, the supreme leader "denounced some Islamic states for their criminal act of assistance towards the Zionist regime," official media said.

The Iranian leader's comments came hours after a U.S. National Security Council official released declassified information purporting to closely link Tehran with recent attacks against civilian shipping in the Red Sea carried out pro-Iranian Houthi rebels.

Iran has been "deeply involved in planning the operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea," NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement issued to CNN late Friday.

Watson said the the newly declassified intelligence suggests that Iranian support "throughout the Gaza crisis has enabled the Houthis to launch attacks against Israel and maritime targets, though Iran has often deferred operational decision-making authority to the Houthis."

She added indications also point to Iran providing "tactical intelligence" to the Yemeni rebels since the assaults on international commercial shipping began last month.

The attacks have created chaos in the region of the Red Sea and Suez Canal, which funnels 12% of global maritime trade, according to Bloomberg. Major container and oil shippers such as Danish giant Maersk have rerouted vessels away from the Red Sea as Houthi militias seek to respond to Israel's war with Hamas.

Earlier this week the United States unveiled a new multinational military initiative to counter the Houthi attacks, saying they will do whatever it takes to stop the threats.

"Operation Prosperity Guardian" was launched with ships and aircraft "from multiple nations" conducting maritime surveillance and set to take defensive action to protect commercial ships from Houthi threats, U.S. officials said.