DEBKAFILE: Saudi and Egyptian marines capture Iran-held island at Red Sea
Captured by Yemeni rebels last May, the island was converted by Iranian officers into an armed base and one of Tehran’s largest depots for the supply of arms to its forces and proxies in the region. A fleet of small boats and fishing vessels kept the Yemeni Houthis amply armed for fending off the Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting to restore the exiled Yemeni government.
The Hanish island base also provided Iran with a commanding position for spreading its influence in Ethiopia and Eritrea on the eastern African seaboard.
Taking the island was a major breakthrough for the coalition, after long months of combat that was crowned by their capture of the southern Yemeni seaport of Aden in the past three months. With the occupation of Greater Hanish, Saudi-led forces are now in position not just to cut off Iran’s weapons supplies to the Yemeni rebels, but also to break its grip on the vital strait that connects the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.
Iran maintained on Greater Hanish Island advanced radar and electronic tracking stations for keeping an eye on military movements on the southern Saudi border with northern Yemen. They could also shadow oil tanker and other shipping passing through the Red Sea, and stake out Israel’s south- and east-bound sea traffic as it passed through the Gulf of Aqaba.
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