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After new US attacks in Yemen, Iran issues warning about suspected spy ships in the Middle East

Iran issued a warning on Sunday to the United States about possible attacks on two cargo ships in West Asia long suspected of serving as a base of operations for Iranian commandos, just after the United States and the United Kingdom launched a campaign of massive airstrikes against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Iran’s statement on Behshad and savis The ships appeared to indicate Tehran’s growing unease over U.S. attacks in recent days in Iraq, Syria and Yemen against militias backed by the Islamic Republic.

Those attacks, themselves a retaliation campaign for the deaths of three American soldiers and the wounding of dozens more in Jordan, date back to Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which has escalated tensions across the Middle East. East and has raised fears about an outbreak of regional conflict.

Sunday night’s attacks in Yemen hit six Yemeni provinces controlled by the Houthi rebels, including the capital Sanaa. The Houthis did not assess the damage, but the United States described attacks on underground missile arsenals, launch sites and helicopters used by the rebels.

“These attacks will not deter Yemeni forces and the nation from maintaining their support for the Palestinians in the face of occupation and Zionist crimes,” said Houthi military spokesman Brig. said General Yahya Saree. “Air strikes by the aggressors will not go unanswered.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned the Houthis after the attacks that they “will continue to suffer further consequences if they do not end their illegal attacks on international ships and warships.” That message was echoed by British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who said: “Houthi attacks must stop.”

He Behshad and savis They are registered as commercial cargo ships with a Tehran-based company that the US Treasury has sanctioned as a front for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s state shipping lines. He savisthen later the Behshadhave wandered for years in the Red Sea off Yemen, suspected of serving as spy positions for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

In 2017, Saudi Arabia described the savis as a maritime base and weapons transshipment point for the Guard, staffed by men dressed in military uniform. Images broadcast by Saudi-owned television channels showed the ship armed with what appeared to be a covered machine gun bolted to the ship’s deck.

In Sunday’s video statement by Iran’s regular military, a narrator for the first time describes the vessels as “floating cabinets.” Behshad such as helping an Iranian mission to “counter piracy in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.” However, Iran is not publicly known to have participated in any of the recent campaigns against increasing Somali piracy in the region in the wake of the Houthi attacks.

Just before the new American air raid campaign began, the Behshad traveled south to the Gulf of Aden. It is now docked in Djibouti in East Africa, just off the coast of a Chinese military base in the country.

The statement ends with a warning superimposed on a montage of images of American warships and an American flag.

“Those who engage in terrorist activities against Behshad or similar vessels endanger international shipping lanes, security and assume global responsibility for potential future international risks,” the video said.

The U.S. Navy’s West Asia-based Fifth Fleet did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the threat.

The Saviz, which is now in the Indian Ocean, near where the United States alleges recent Iranian drone attacks have targeted shipping, has been attacked before. In 2021, a probable limpet mine explosion blew a hole in the hull of the Saviz, forcing Iran to bring the ship home. That attack, suspected to have been carried out by Israel, is part of a broader shadow war between Tehran and Israel after the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal.

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