Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has intensified his rhetoric against Israel, calling on Muslim-majority nations to sever all ties with the country. At a recent ceremony unveiling Iran’s new Fattah II hypersonic missile, Khamenei lambasted Muslim governments that have failed to condemn what he termed as Israel’s “genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza. He emphasised that such condemnations should not be mere words but should translate into concrete actions, urging Islamic governments to cut off political ties with Israel for a limited time.
Show of Military Might
The ceremony also showcased Iran’s upgraded combat arsenal, featuring attack drones and the 9-Dey missile defence system capable of launching short to medium-range projectiles. Despite the display of military prowess, earlier reports suggested that Khamenei refused direct engagement in the Israel-Hamas conflict. Allegedly, he conveyed to the head of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, that Iran and Hezbollah would not enter the war directly, citing a lack of warning regarding the October 7 surprise attack.
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Hesitation in Direct Engagement
While Khamenei pledged moral and financial support to Hamas, he reportedly urged Haniyeh to discourage calls for Iran and Hezbollah to join the conflict directly. The Supreme Leader’s stance reflects a careful diplomatic manoeuvre, balancing support for the Palestinian cause without risking direct confrontation with Israel.
Houthi Rebels’ Maritime Escalation
Coinciding with Khamenei’s remarks is the hijacking of an Israeli-linked cargo ship in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. The Galaxy Leader, bound for India, was seized, and 25 crew members reportedly taken hostage. The Houthi negotiator, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, stated that the hijacking was a demonstration of their commitment to waging a maritime battle against Israel, regardless of the cost. The rebel group pledged to target all Israeli-linked vessels in the future.
Accusations of Iranian Guidance
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly attributed the hijacking to “Iranian guidance.” Initially, Israel claimed the vessel was neither Israeli nor were any Israelis on board, only later confirming its partial ownership by Israeli businessman Abraham “Rami” Ungar. The incident underscores the complex web of regional tensions, with accusations flying between nations and proxy groups.
Houthi Entry into the Israeli-Gaza Conflict
The Houthi rebel movement, known as Ansarallah, declared its entry into the Israeli-Gaza conflict earlier this month, responding to what they deemed as “brutal aggression” against Palestinians. Missile and drone attacks launched by the Houthis have targeted Israel, raising concerns about the escalation of hostilities in the region.
Calls for International Intervention
Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree emphasised the need for the international community to address Israel’s aggression against Gaza. He called for an end to the conflict, stating that the Houthis would continue military operations until the alleged “ugly crimes” against Palestinians cease.
As tensions escalate in the Middle East, Khamenei’s call for a Muslim boycott and the Houthi rebels’ maritime escalation add layers of complexity to an already volatile region. The international community faces the challenge of balancing diplomatic efforts to ease tensions while addressing the legitimate concerns of various parties involved. The situation remains fluid, and the coming days will likely reveal the extent of the impact of these developments on regional dynamics.