Published: Wed, March 03, 2021
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Israeli-owned ship hit by explosion in Gulf of Oman

Israeli-owned ship hit by explosion in Gulf of Oman

The Friday explosion came amid high tensions between Iran and the new USA administration, which took its first military action Thursday night against Iranian-backed militia in Syria in response to attacks on United States forces in the Middle East.

The Pentagon said the strikes were retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops.

Iran also has blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including a mysterious explosion last summer that destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility and the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic's military nuclear program two decades ago.

Washington has blamed Iran for a number of attacks on shipping in strategic Gulf waters, including on four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, in May 2019.

On Sunday night, Syrian state media reported several airstrikes took place near Damascus, with air defense systems intercepting most of the missiles.

An Israeli vessel apparently travelling from Saudi Arabia to Singapore was hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman, maritime security groups said Friday, adding there were no casualties.

Emirati officials did not respond to requests for comment on the vessel docking in the country. Tehran has denied the accusations that it was behind the limpet mine attacks. A USA defence official in Washington said the blast left holes above the waterline in both sides of the hull.

It also comes days after Joe Biden ordered airstrikes on Syria to target an Iranian-backed militia, with the USA president warning Tehran that it can not act with impunity.

According to the report, the ship, "Helios Ray", belongs to the "Ray Shipping" company - a British firm owned by Ungar, whose ties with the chief of Mossad were not specified by Kan.

Israeli Channel 13 News said defence officials believed the Iranian navy had launched a precision strike to avoid casualties, firing two missiles at a part of the ship that if damaged would not have sunk the vessel.

In 2019, that area of the Persian Gulf saw multiple blasts on vessels for which the USA blamed Iran. On Friday at 0230 GMT, the vessel stopped for at least nine hours east of a main Omani port before making a 360-degree turn and sailing toward Dubai, likely for damage assessment and repairs, he said. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss unreleased information on the incidents.

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

But Iran denied the allegation that it was behind the ship explosion, accusing Netanyahu of suffering from "an obsession with Iran".

Iranian threats of retaliation have raised alarms in Israel since the signing of normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in September.

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