Iran’s Alborz warship has entered the Red Sea, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported today, amid escalating tensions in this key shipping lane that has seen regular attacks on ships by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, backed by Tehran.

Tasnim did not provide details on the Alborz’s mission, but said Iranian warships have been operating in open waters to secure shipping lanes, fight piracy and perform other duties since 2009.

Since November, Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels have ramped up attacks in the Red Sea against ships they see as “linked to Israel”, in solidarity with the Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

In the face of these incidents, many major shipping companies have redesigned their shipping routes, choosing the more expensive route around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, instead of going through the Suez Canal, where nearly 12 % of world trade.

The Alborz warship entered the Red Sea through the Bab el-Madeb Strait, Tasnim said, without specifying when. Unconfirmed reports on social media indicated that the ship entered these waters late on Saturday.

In the latest attack by the Shiite rebels, ten Houthi rebels were killed yesterday by US fire that sank their boats in the Red Sea while they were attacking the container ship Maersk Hangzhou.

The giant Danish shipping company Maersk then announced that it was suspending the passage of its fleet through the strategically important Bab el-Madeb strait in the Red Sea for 48 hours.

Iranian Navy Chief Shahram Irani was quoted by Iranian media on December 2 as saying that the Alborz was carrying out missions in the Red Sea.

Iran’s Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Astiani said on December 14 regarding the Red Sea that “no one can make a move in an area where we dominate.”