Iran Says Israel Likely Behind Attack on Container Ship in Mediterranean. Says Has Right to Respond
Israel is highly likely to have been behind an attack in the Mediterranean this week that damaged an Iranian container ship, an Iranian investigator was quoted as saying on Saturday by Iranian media.
Israeli officials did not comment on Friday when asked if Israel was involved in the incident, which took place on 10 March.
The container ship, Shahr e Kord, was hit by an explosive object which caused a small fire, but no one on board was hurt, Iran reported on Friday. Two maritime security sources said initial indications were that the ship had been intentionally targeted by an unknown source.
“Considering the geographical location and the way the ship was targeted, one of the strong possibilities is that this terrorist operation was carried out by the Zionist regime [Israel],” an unnamed member of the Iranian team investigating the incident was quoted as saying by semi-official Nournews.
A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry said on Saturday that reports confirmed a sabotage attack “in clear violation of international law”.
“Measures to identify the perpetrators of this sabotage action are on our agenda,” state media quoted Saeed Khatibzade as saying.
Iran’s state-run shipping company IRISL said on Friday it would take legal action to identify the perpetrators of the attack, which it called “terrorism” and “naval piracy”.
The incident came two weeks after an Israeli-owned ship, the MV Helios Ray, was hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman.
The cause was not immediately clear, although a US defence official said the blast left holes in both sides of the vessel’s hull. Israel accused Iran of being behind the explosion, a charge the Islamic republic denied.
Repeated attacks on Iranian vessels
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Friday that Israel has struck at least a dozen boats heading to Syria over the past two years, mostly carrying Iranian oil.
Citing US and regional officials, the US outlet said that since 2019 Israeli weaponry had repeatedly struck Iranian vessels or boats carrying Iranian cargo en route to Syria and other areas in the region.
Source: Middle East Eye
Since 2019, Israel has attacked ships, particularly those it believes belong to Iran, at an alarming rate. At least a dozen oil tankers headed to Syria have been hit, and the US is believed to have endorsed the process.
These attacks were so common they went largely unnoticed. They are increasingly becoming a military, economic, and environmental concern, centered around hits against two recent boats.
The first ship was the supertanker Emerald, owned by Libya, flagged by Panama. This was one of those many oil tankers that Israel reckons was going from Iran to Syria. We might never have heard of it, either, except that after the attack the oil spilled all over the Israeli coast.
Israeli officials are not admitting that they attacked the tanker, but they’re also saying the oil spill wasn’t their fault. For now, who attacked it is just speculation, though Israel is a prime suspect. Israeli officials, however, are looking to blame Syria, whose ship it was in the first place.
This would’ve been more ambiguous except that over the past week Israel attacked the cargo ship Shahr-e Kord, an Iranian ship. Iran says they have the absolute right to respond militarily to this, and will decide how to protect their rights.
This comes just weeks after an explosion on an Israeli ship, which Israel blamed on Iran, and seems like retaliation. Iran denied involvement, however, and now seems to be seeking retaliation of its own.
All of this suggests maritime tensions are on the rise, and more tit-for-tat attacks may be likely. While Israel had the Trump Administration’s permission to do as it wants, it’s not so clear Biden will give them carte blanche, even if it is Israel’s inclination to keep the strikes up.