An Israeli freighter that was struck by a number of explosions of unknown cause on Friday in the Gulf of Oman has arrived at the port of Dubai today. There, the damage to the ship is investigated and repaired. Israel suspects Iran attacked the ship.
The MC Helios Ray, a vessel carrying vehicles and flying the flag of the Bahamas, was on its way from Saudi Arabia to Singapore this week. After it had sailed past the easternmost point of Oman on the night of Thursday to Friday, it suddenly turned around, showing satellite data.
Explosions caused two holes in the hull with a diameter of one and a half meters, both on the starboard and on the port side. According to the owner of the ship, there was no damage to the engine, none of the crew was injured and it was not clear what caused it; missiles or explosives attached to the ship, so-called limpet mines.
Iran was drawn almost immediately from different sides. In 2019, similar incidents occurred in the Gulf of Oman, involving oil tankers and ships with explosives or torpedoes. The US and Saudi Arabia also accused Iran at that time.
Press agency AP quotes Dryad Global, a company that collects maritime intelligence. It may have been the victim of “asymmetric activity of the Iranian army”. Asymmetric warfare means that a considerable objective can be achieved with relatively limited means. In this case, Iran thinks Dryad Global wants to put pressure on the United States to alleviate the sanctions.
Under President Trump, relations between Iran and the US have deteriorated considerably. The US withdrew from the nuclear deal where Iran began to enrich uranium again. New US President Joe Biden wants to restore the deal with Iran. But Iran is not equally inclined to do so now. First, the sanctions must be lightened, according to Iran, and then the parties can sit back at the table. Today, Iran again rejected a proposal for informal talks with the EU and the US.
Iran feels threatened for more reasons, including by Israel. Last year, Israel concluded agreements with several Arab countries to normalize ties, such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. The countries did so, among other things, because they share the view that Iran is the greatest threat to stability in the Middle East.
attacks on Iranian targets
Israel is also accused by Iran of several attacks on Iranian territory. In July 2020, a fire occurred in a nuclear complex in Natanz, Iran. Also, according to Iran, Israel was behind the murder of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the brains behind the Iranian nuclear program last November.
Israel never officially confirms that it is behind such attacks, but it would have taken retaliation into account. Following the deals with several Gulf States, there are also significantly more Israeli ships sailing through the area at the moment.
Therefore, it is not surprising that several Israeli officials attribute the explosions on the Helios Ray to Iran. Aviv Kochavi, Israels highest military officer, said in a speech today that Iran “carries out operations against civilian targets”.
Previously, Minister Gantz of Defense had said that the conditions surrounding the explosion indicated Iranian involvement. He did say that it needed to be investigated more closely.
Iran has not yet responded to the allegations, but the ultra-conservative newspaper Kayhan, affiliated with the government, does not seem to deny it entirely. The newspaper speculates that the Israeli ship was “possibly on a spy mission”. Subsequently, the ship was probably attacked by fighters paid by Iran. Or as the newspaper put it: the ship may have been “ambushed by a section of the axis of resistance”.