Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday accused Iran of attacking an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman last week.
Speaking to Israeli public television station Kan, Netanyahu said that it was indeed an act by Iran, that is clear.
Iran is Israel’s greatest enemy, I am determined to stop it. We are hitting it in the whole region, Netanyahu said.
The mysterious explosion hit the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamas-flagged, Israeli-owned ship carrying vehicles, which was sailing Friday through the Middle East bound for Singapore. The crew was unharmed, but the ship was left with two holes on the abutment shore and two on the port side just above the waterline, according to U.S. defense officials.
The ship arrived Sunday at the port of Dubai for repairs, days after the event reignited security concerns in Middle East shipping lanes amid tensions with Iran.
Iran is trying to pressure the United States to lift sanctions on Tehran as the administration of Joe Biden studies its options for resuming negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Biden has reiterated that Washington would return to the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, from which his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, withdrew in 2018, only after Iran returned to abide by all its terms.
It was still unclear what had produced the explosion on the ship. The Helios Ray had unloaded cars at several ports in the Persian Gulf before the explosion forced it to change course. It docked Sunday in Dubai for inspection and repairs.
In recent days, Israel’s defense minister and army chief have indicated that they hold Iran responsible for the attack.
Iran responded to Netanyahu’s statements by expressing its firm rejection of accusations that it was responsible for the attack. At a press conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Netanyahu suffers from an obsession with Iran and said he was sowing fear with his statements.
Syrian media reported overnight a series of airstrikes near Damascus, indicated that anti-aircraft systems had intercepted most of the missiles.
Israeli media said the alleged airstrikes were directed against Iranian targets in response to the attack on the ship.
Israel has attacked hundreds of Iranian targets in neighboring Syria in recent years.