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Israeli and Iranian ships in the Red Sea have been subject to regular attacks in recent weeks and months.
Tel Aviv and Tehran blame each other but with little evidence to support either side’s claims.
On April 6th, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) cargo ship was struck in an unknown manner, in the area between the coasts of Yemen and Eritrea.
Some sources claimed that it had been struck below the waterline, meaning that it had been hit by a magnetic mine.
Others, however, claimed that it was subject to rocket fire. Either way, there was official confirmation that an IRGC ship by the name of Saviz had sustained damage.
Earlier, on March 25th, an Israeli-owned cargo ship – the “LORI” was struck by a missile as it was sailing from Tanzania to India. This was immediately blamed on Iran. No significant damage nor casualties were reported.
On March 11th, during this tit-for-tat series of ship attacks, an explosion rocked an Iranian-owned ship named SHAHR E KORD off the shores of Syria. Tehran claimed that the incident was a “terrorist attack”.
And even before that, on February 26, the Israeli-owned MV HELIOS RAY experienced a number of explosions while sailing in the Sea of Oman. Israel claimed that the vessel was attacked by Iranian forces.
Both sides vehemently deny all accusations.
Still, the Wall Street Journal cited US officials claiming that Israel has targeted at least a dozen vessels bound for Syria, mostly carrying Iranian oil, out of concern that petroleum profits are funding extremism in the Middle East.
Indeed, Iran has repeatedly claimed to be a victim of just such a subversive Israeli policy, from 2019 onwards.
In the most recent attack on April 6th, the New York Times cited an anonymous US official who said that the Israeli side had confirmed the attack on the IRGC cargo ship. The Pentagon, for its part, denied that US forces were involved at all.
This is likely out of concern that any such incident could hurt the unofficial talks taking place in Vienna to salvage the Iran Nuclear Deal. Tel Aviv strongly opposes any normalization on that front, and has vowed to go to some lengths in order to impede it.
Tel Aviv’s efforts are not only limited to the dangerous game of battleship. An alleged Israeli spy was arrested in Iran. Israel and the US were accused of subterfuge and attempting to undermine the upcoming June 18th elections.