Israel is blaming Iran for the Thursday incident in the Gulf of Oman wherein a cargo vessel owned by an Israeli businessman was hit by a 'mystery' explosion, forcing it to divert to the nearest port after sustaining severe damage.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz has announced as part of an "initial assessment" that Tel Aviv believes Iran was behind a bomb attack on the car-carrier vessel, identified as the Helios Ray. Suspicion of Iran's involvement has been rampant in Israeli media since the blast. However, there's yet to be definitive proof or evidence that either a state actor or terrorist elements were involved, much less any specific details released to the public.
"Iran is looking to hit Israeli infrastructure and Israeli citizens. The location of the ship in relative close proximity to Iran raises the notion, the assessment, that it is the Iranians," Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Saturday, according to Reuters.
Photos circulating of damage to Helios Ray after explosion on board. There are some similarities to photos from previous limpet mine attacks in Gulf of Oman. #Israel #OOTT #Iran pic.twitter.com/gPnvSElQpX— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) February 26, 2021
Gantz appears to be speculating to a large degree, likely with an intelligence investigation still pending. He added: "Right now, at an initial assessment level, given the proximity and the context - that is my assessment."
No crew were reported harmed in the blast which struck the hull of the Bahamian flag vessel as it traveled through the Gulf of Oman from Saudi Arabia to Singapore. It's now reported to be docked in Dubai as the damaged is assessed, some photos of which circulated online in the past two days.
Pentagon sources confirmed the damage yet without specifying blame. "A U.S. defense official in Washington said the blast left holes above the waterline in both sides of the hull. The cause was not immediately clear and no casualties were reported," Reuters noted.
During the summer 2019 'tanker war' involving Iran and the West, the Islamic Republic was blamed for limpet mine attacks on commercial vessels in the region; however, Tehran vehemently denied these attacks, which many speculated was 'retaliation' for the UK seizing and temporarily detaining the Iranian oil tanker 'Grace 1' off Gibraltar, citing compliance with US-led sanctions.