Israel’s Security Cabinet planned today to discuss how to respond to an unexplained attack on an Israeli-owned cargo ship on Friday in the Gulf of Oman, an attack for which more and more senior Israeli officials blame Iran.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz was the first to finger Tehran, saying on Saturday that his “initial assessment” is that Iranian aggression was to blame.
“We will need to keep investigating, but we can say for sure that Iran is attempting to damage Israeli infrastructure and to hurt Israeli citizens,” Gantz told the KAN broadcaster, noting the ship’s proximity to Iran.
With tensions already high between Israel and Iran, and recent U.S. attacks on Iranian targets in the past week, the incident has the potential to ignite a powder keg in the Middle East. The attack on the cargo ship comes as i24NEWS reported that Israel “is currently in talks with the kingdoms of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in establishing a four-nation defense alliance.”
Israel forged new treaties with the UAE and Bahrain – the Abraham Accords – brokered by the former U.S. administration in 2020. Riyadh blessed these two deals but does not have its own diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, with a new American administration keen to re-enter talks with Iran on its nuclear agreement, Israel and her regional allies — or Iran’s enemies — may be looking to create an alliance to counter the growing Iranian threat and its influence in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
On Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said the incident was a reminder that “Iran is not just a nuclear threat.”
Iran “spreads terrorism and is conducting terrorist activities against civilian targets,” he said.
“The State of Israel is constantly dealing with multiple threats,” Kochavi said. “All of our fronts are active, and all these fronts require updated, real-time intelligence [to defend] against a rocket [attack], against infiltration, against cyberattacks, against [threats to] ships and threats on fighter jets.”
The Helios Ray, which flies under a Bahamian flag, docked in Dubai on Sunday for repairs. It sustained two holes on its port side and two on its starboard side just above the waterline, according to American defense officials.
The vessel’s owner is a Tel Aviv firm called Ray Shipping Ltd. The ship was apparently carrying vehicles and was on its way from Saudi Arabia to Singapore when it was struck. No one from the crew was reported injured and the ship was able to maneuver to port on its own.
Israel has been concerned about retribution from Iran since the killing of its top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on Iranian soil in November — a targeted assassination blamed on Israel.
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS