Iran's Revolutionary Guards are willing to provide a military escort to cargo ships trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, a spokesman for Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying Sunday. The news was carried by Reuters, quoting Iranian news agency Mehr.
"Iran's navy forces are ready to escort the peace flotilla to Gaza with all their powers and capabilities," announced Ali Shirazi, Khamenei's representative inside the Revolutionary Guards.
The report came just a day after Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was reportedly considering personally joining a flotilla to Gaza and offering the support of the Turkish Navy to protect such flotillas from Israeli inspections.
A naval force from either country heading toward Gaza would be tantamount to a declaration of war on Israel, which is a very small country that is surrounded by hostile Muslim entities.
The Iranian National Guards have their own navy, air force and command structure, separate from the regular Iranian armed forces. They are seen as fiercely loyal to the religious values of the Islamic Republic.
"If the Supreme Leader issues an order for this then the Revolutionary Guard naval forces will do their best to secure the ships," Shirazi said. "It is Iran's duty to defend the innocent people of Gaza."
Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, earlier dismissed the prospect of a hostile escort for a Gaza flotilla as not being a realistic possibility. "Some of these reports must be taken with a grain of salt ... I am not sure that is a realistic scenario," he told British Sky News. "I prefer that we sort these things out peacefully. Nobody wants any saber-rattling. It does not do any good."