Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed Iran for an explosion on an Israeli-owned ship, MV Helios Ray, in the Gulf of Oman last week.
The carrier was flying a Bahamas’ flag on route from Saudi Arabia port Dammam to Singapore with a stopover in Dubai when the blast occurred around 50 miles from Muscat. There were 28 crew members onboard. No one was injured.
Syrian media reported an Israeli air strike near Damascus on Sunday night. Israeli media reported the strikes were a response to the ship attack in the Gulf.
Israeli businessman Rami Ungar owns the cargo ship which diverted to Dubai’s Port Rashid for inspection and repairs to port and starboard sides according to American defense officials.
It has been reported damage was caused by a missile or mines attached to the boat by a commando unit. Channel 13 News reportedly said Israeli officials believe the Iranian navy launched a precision strike to avoid casualties.
It remains unclear what actually caused the blast but Israeli’s leader is resolute in his responses.
“It was indeed an act by Iran, that’s clear,” Netanyahu reportedly told KAN TV. “Iran is the greatest enemy of Israel, I am determined to halt it. We are hitting it in the entire region.”
Defence Minister Benny Gantz also accused Iran of striking the ship on the media channel.
“Iran is looking to hit Israeli infrastructure and Israeli citizens and in everything related in any way to the State of Israel,” Gantz told Kan TV on Saturday. “The location of the ship in relative close proximity to Iran raises the notion, the assessment, that it is the Iranians, but this is something that needs to be examined.”
Israeli Ambassador to the US, Gilad Erdan, added on Army Radio, “It was no secret that the Iranians are trying to harm Israeli targets”.
The Helios Ray made a number of stops in the Gulf before the explosion.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said an investigation was underway, rand has warned vessels in the area should “exercise caution”.
Iran rejected Netanyahu’s claims over culpability though footage appeared on Iranian state television.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh reportedly said in a news conference on Monday, “We strongly reject this accusation. The security of the Persian Gulf is extremely important for Iran.”
Khatibzadeh’s comments have been dismissed by Israeli security who believe the ship was targeted in ongoing Iranian efforts to avenge the death of chief nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh who ran its nuclear program two decades ago last November. Iran blames Israel for the killing.
According to Bicom, Israel cancelled a delegation attending a defence expo in Abu Dhabi over fears of being targeted. There are also tensions between the US and Iran over the JCPOA nuclear deal.
The Abraham Accords has seen a hike in ships sailing between the Persian Gulf and Eilat.
Iran is suspected of attacks on ships in the Gulf and Israeli intelligence have noted that Iran can threaten ships at large distances from its coast.
In related news, the attack followed US airstrikes in Syria targeting facilities near the Iraqi border last Thursday. The Pentagon said strikes were retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq last month that killed a civilian contractor and wounded coalition troops.
Regarding the latest attacks in Syria issues, Israeli intelligence have noted that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah operate in the area, although an Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the matter. This is a standard protocol. However, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said last Friday that Israel was taking “almost weekly” action to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria.
Israel has launched hundreds of strikes against military targets in Syria in recent years