Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blames Iran for the blast that hit an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman last week. Interviewed by Israel’s public broadcaster Kan, Netanyahu said, “This is indeed an action by Iran, it is clear.” Asked whether Israel would retaliate the attack on the ship, Netanyahu sidestepped the issue, saying simply that Iran “is Israel’s biggest enemy and we are striking them across the region.”
Netanyahu then added that Israel has told the United States it will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, no matter what the terms are of any potential deal. “The Iranians will not have nuclear weapons, with or without an agreement. I said that to my friend [US President Joe] Biden as well,” Netanyahu stated.
Already on Feb. 27, Defense Minister Benny Gantz told Kan there is “a likelihood” that Iran is behind the explosion. According to Gantz, the location of the ship in relative close proximity to the Iranian coast raises the notion and the assessment that the country was behind the attack. Still, Gantz noted that an investigation into the incident had not yet been completed. “We need to continue investigating. The Iranians are looking to harm Israelis and Israeli infrastructure. The proximity to Iran leads to the assessment that there is a likelihood that this is an Iranian initiative. We are committed to continuing to check,” Gantz said.
The Israeli ambassador to the United States and United Nations, Gilad Erdan, told Army Radio Feb. 28, “It was no secret that the Iranians are trying to harm Israeli targets.”
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi pointed a finger at Iran, though did not blame it outright. “Just over the weekend we got a reminder in one of these theaters of one of the greatest threats in the region, Iran, and we got a reminder that Iran not only is a nuclear threat, but that it spreads and carries out terror and operations against civilian targets,” Kochavi said.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh denied this morning the reports that Iran was behind an attack, stating, "The origin of this accusation shows how baseless it is."
Netanyahu’s accusations, registered last night and broadcast this morning, are the latest development in an affair that increases the already high tensions between Jerusalem and Tehran. The interview took place before Syrian state news agency SANA reported that air defense systems were activated in the environs of Damascus due to an alleged Israeli aerial attack. Israeli press speculated that the aerial attack could have come as retaliation over the ship incident, though Israel did not take responsibility for it.
The MV Helios Ray ship — an Israeli-owned Bahamian-flagged cargo ship — was hit overnight Feb. 25 by a blast above the water line. American officials reported that the explosion ripped holes in both sides of its hull. Apparently, the blast did not disable the ship or injure its crew, but forced it ashore for repairs. Thus, the ship came into Dubai’s Port Rashid on the mornnig of Feb. 27.
Israel’s Channel 13 reported that the ship was attacked by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which fired two missiles at the ship. Other reports revealed that a delegation of Israeli security officials was sent to Dubai shortly after the incident to inspect the ship and to participate in the investigation. Israel is now worried that Iran could target other Israeli cargo ships, as 90% of imports and exports of goods to and from Israel are transported by sea.