JERUSALEM — Iran is “very directly involved” in ship attacks that Yemen's Houthi rebels have carried out during Israel's war against Hamas, the U.S. Navy's top Mideast commander told The Associated Press on Monday.
Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the head of the Navy's 5th Fleet, stopped short of saying Tehran directed individual attacks by the Houthis in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
However, Cooper acknowledged that attacks associated with Iran have expanded from previously threatening just the Persian Gulf and its Strait of Hormuz into waters across the wider Middle East.
“Clearly, the Houthi actions, probably in terms of their attacks on merchant shipping, are the most significant that we've seen in two generations,” he told the AP in a telephone interview. “The facts simply are that they're attacking the international community; thus, the international response I think you've seen.”
Iran's mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cooper's remarks. Houthi leadership in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, could not be immediately reached.
Since November, the Iranian-backed Houthis have launched at least 34 attacks on shipping through the waterways leading up to Egypt's Suez Canal, a vital route for energy and cargo coming from Asia and the Middle East onward to Europe.
The Houthis, a Shiite rebel group that's held Sanaa since 2014 and been at war with a Saudi-led coalition…