Israel blames Iran for blast on Israeli-owned ship

03 Mars, 2021, 08:48 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • A vector map of the Gulf region and the Strait of Hormuz. Credit tunasalmon  Shutterstock

"We strongly deny this accusation", Khatibzadeh told reporters, adding that "the source of this accusation itself shows how invalid (the claim) is".

Israel has blamed Iran as being behind an explosion that struck an Israeli-owned ship travelling from the Saudi port of Dammam to Singapore, in its first assessment of the incident, which took place on 25 February.

"Investigations are ongoing. Vessel and crew are safe", the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said in an advisory notice on Friday.

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 U.S. Energy Information Administration. An Israeli official said limpet mines were used.

Associated Press journalists saw the hulking Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray sitting at dry dock facilities at Dubai's Port Rashid.

Iranian authorities have not publicly commented on the ship.

Israel's government, led by right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is vehemently opposed to the 2015 nuclear agreement negotiated between Tehran and world powers.

Netanyahu supported Trump's withdrawal from the deal but said in his Monday remarks that he had spoken to Biden about the Iran issue.

The explosion on the Israeli-owned ship last week recalled the tense summer of 2019, when the USA military accused Iran of attacking several oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman with limpet mines, created to be attached magnetically to a ship's hull.

The Helios Ray had discharged cars at various ports in the Persian Gulf before making its way out of the Middle East toward Singapore.

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The vessel came loaded with cargo from Europe.

While it remains unclear what caused the explosion, two US defense officials told The Associated Press that the ship sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline. The officials said it remained unclear what caused the holes.

The vehicle-carrier ship is owned by a Tel-Aviv based company called Ray Shipping through a company registered in the Isle of Man, according to a United Nations shipping database. He made his fortune in shipping and construction. In the preceding months, the U.S. had attributed a series of suspected attacks to Iran, including the use of limpet mines - created to be attached magnetically to a ship's hull - to cripple four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah.

"I think it is part of the game between Iran and the U.S., that's why they are hitting Western ships", he said.

Dryad suggested Iran could be behind the blast, noting the incident comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and the Islamic republic.

In the tense summer of 2019, the USA military blamed Iran for explosions on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most strategic shipping lanes.

Israel's Channel 13 reported that the ship was attacked by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which fired two missiles at the ship.

Since the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Fakhrizadeh last November, Israeli officials have raised alarms about potential Iranian retaliation, including through its regional proxies like Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi rebels. In a speech at an army base on Sunday, Israeli military Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi accused Iran of carrying out "operations against civilian targets", a charge the army later confirmed was in reference to the suspected ship attack.

"Increasingly Iran is also becoming fearful of improving relations between Israel and the Gulf states", it added in reference to recent normalisation deals between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

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