Iran is the main suspect behind the attack overnight Thursday on an Israeli-owned cargo vessel that was damaged by a mysterious explosion in the Gulf of Oman, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Saturday.
“We will need to keep investigating, but we can say for sure that Iran is attempting to damage Israeli infrastructure and to hurt Israeli citizens,” Gantz told KAN. He noted that the ship’s proximity to Iran during the incident has strengthened the suspicions against Tehran.
The ship – Helios Ray – usually used as a vehicle carrier, was sailing to Singapore from Saudi Arabia when the explosion occurred. It was then diverted to a port in Dubai to assess the damage.
The ship’s company was reportedly in good condition and there were no known injuries. It continued under its own power to Dubai.
Several assessments have pointed to possible causes for the explosion. According to early estimations made by the United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO), the explosion was most likely the result of a maritime mine being triggered.
However, a US defense official later told Reuters that the ship was hit by a blast above the water line that ripped holes in both sides of its hull. If correct, this would mean that it is highly unlikely that the damage was caused by an anti-ship mine.
UKMTO noted that initially, it was not ruling out any option and had issued a warning to nearby vessels, advising them to stay away from the area until the incident is clarified.
Officials from the security firm Dryad that was securing the area have also said that they are examining the possibility that the Iranian military was involved.
“Whilst details regarding the incident remain unclear, it remains a realistic possibility that the event was the result of asymmetric activity by Iranian military,” Dryad said in a report.
In an interview to Ynet, Rami Ongar, the Israeli businessman who owns Helios Ray, said he did not believe that the explosion was the result of an intentional attack, but he noted that the ship has holes in it, which may indicate damage caused by missiles.
Ongar said it was possible that if the explosion had been the result of an Iranian attack, it might have been a signal to the
On Saturday, N12 reported that a delegation of representatives from Israel’s defense industries that was meant to travel to an international exhibition in Abu Dhabi did not receive approval to travel due to Iranian threats in the region. This differed from an earlier reason given for the Israeli no-show due to health concerns, and fears that the delegation might import coronavirus mutations upon their return home.
The US Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet said it was aware of the incident and was monitoring the situation.
Tensions have risen in the Gulf region since the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 after then-president Donald Trump withdrew America from the Islamic Republic’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.
Washington has blamed Tehran for a number of attacks on shipping in strategic Gulf waters, including on four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, in May 2019. Iran distanced itself from those attacks.
In early January, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps seized a South Korean-flagged tanker in Gulf waters and detained its crew amid tensions between Tehran and US ally Seoul over Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks due to the US sanctions.
In 2018, 21 million barrels per day of oil flowed through the Gulf’s Strait of Hormuz, equivalent to about 21% of global petroleum liquids demand at the time, according to the US Energy Information Administration.