Israel suspects Iran behind blast on ship in Gulf of Oman

“The location of the vessel, relatively close to Iran at the time, raises the belief that Iran was responsible, but it must still be verified,” the Israeli defence minister said.
Sunday 28/02/2021
The Israeli-owned cargo ship, Helios Ray, sits docked in port after arriving earlier in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. (AFP)
The Israeli-owned cargo ship, Helios Ray, sits docked in port after arriving earlier in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. (AFP)

JERUSALEM--Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz said on Saturday his “initial assessment” was that Iran was responsible for an explosion on an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman overnight between Thursday and Friday.

The MV Helios Ray, a vehicle carrier, was travelling from the Saudi port of Dammam to Singapore when the blast occurred on Thursday, according to the Dryad Global maritime security group.

“The location of the vessel, relatively close to Iran at the time, raises the belief that Iran was responsible, but it must still be verified,” Gantz told Israeli state television Kan.

“This is an initial assessment that takes into account the proximity (with Iran) and the context” in which the blast occurred, he added.

“This is what I believe.”

Rami Ungar, an Israeli businessman who owns the Helios Ray, told Kan on Friday that the explosion did not cause any casualties among the crew or damage to the engine.

It did cause “two holes about a meter and a half (five feet) in diameter” in damage, he said, without elaborating.

“But it is not yet clear to us whether it was caused by missile fire or mines attached to the ship,” he added.

“We have no idea if this is an incident that is part of the tensions between Iran and the United States and if it has to do with the fact that the owner of the ship is Israeli.”

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

“Tensions between Israel and Iran remain fraught, especially in light of increased signs of rapprochement between Iran and the Biden administration,” Dryad said.

The Israeli-owned cargo docked in Dubai’s port for repairs Sunday

Israeli ambassador to the US, Gilad Erdan, told Israel’s Army Radio on Sunday that “it was no secret that the Iranians are trying to harm Israeli targets” and alleged the explosion on the ship bore the hallmarks of other Iranian attacks.

Iranian authorities have not publicly commented on the ship. The country’s hard-line Kayhan daily, whose editor-in-chief was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, alleged the Helios Ray was “possibly” on an “espionage” mission in the region, without offering any evidence to support the claim. The Sunday report speculated the ship may have been “trapped in an ambush by a branch of resistance axis,” referring to Iranian proxies in the region.

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.