Company says Iranian ship hit in attack in Mediterranean

An Iranian container ship was damaged in an attack in the Mediterranean, the state-run shipping company said on Friday, adding it would take legal action to identify the perpetrators of what it called “terrorism” and naval piracy.

The ship, Shahre Kord, was slightly damaged in Wednesday’s incident by an explosive object which caused a small fire, but no one on board was hurt, the spokesman, Ali Ghiasian, said, according to state media.

“Such terrorist acts amount to naval piracy, and are contrary to international law on commercial shipping security, and legal action will be taken to identify the perpetrators through relevant international institutions,” Ghiasian said.

The vessel was headed to Europe when the attack occurred and will leave for its destination after repairs, he added.

Two maritime security sources said initial indications were that the Iranian container ship had been intentionally targeted by an unknown source.

The incident comes 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 it denied.

On Friday, Israeli officials did not comment when asked if Israel was involved in the Shahre Kord incident reported by Iran.

A third maritime security source told the Reuters news agency that three other Iranian ships had been damaged in recent weeks by unknown causes when sailing through the Red Sea.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel has targeted at least a dozen vessels bound for Syria and mostly carrying Iranian oil out of concern that petroleum profits are “funding terrorism” in the Middle East.

Israeli officials declined to comment on the report, which cited unnamed US and regional officials and came as the Biden administration reviews policy on Iran. The US Embassy in Jerusalem had no immediate comment.

In a speech to Israeli navy cadets in 2019, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had accused Iran of increased oil smuggling by sea to circumvent US sanctions, and said the navy corps would “have a more important role in blocking these Iranian actions”.

He did not elaborate on what that might entail.

Israel has separately said it is waging a covert “campaign between wars” to deny Iranian allies on its border’s arms and other support from Tehran.

“We do not comment on the campaign we are waging, in the operational regard,” Israeli security cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Tel Aviv radio 102 FM when asked about the Journal report.

“But we always emphasise [that] we must be poised against Iranian belligerence on all fronts … and I suppose this also includes the air and sea arenas, as well as on land.”

The Israeli navy, whose largest vessels are missile corvettes and five diesel-fuelled submarines, is mostly active in the Mediterranean and Red seas.

Lens/Reuters

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