Explosion hits Israeli-owned ship in Middle East amid tension – tech2.org

Explosion hits Israeli-owned ship in Middle East amid tension

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – An explosion struck an Israeli-owned cargo ship leaving the Middle East on Friday, an inexplicable blast that renewed concerns about ship safety in the region amid rising tensions. between the United States and Iran.

The crew and ship were safe, according to UK Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy. The explosion in the Gulf of Oman forced the ship to head to the nearest port.

The incident was reminiscent of the summer of 2019, when the same site saw a series of alleged attacks that the US Navy blamed on Iran, which Tehran denied. Meanwhile, as US President Joe Biden tries to reactivate nuclear negotiations with Iran, he ordered airstrikes overnight. on facilities in Syria belonging to a powerful Iraqi armed group backed by Iran.

Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, identified the affected vessel as the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged cargo and unload vehicle cargo ship. Another private security officer, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, similarly identified the ship as Helios Ray.

Satellite tracking data from the MarineTraffic.com website showed that the Helios Ray had almost entered the Arabian Sea around 0600 GMT on Friday before it suddenly turned around and began to return towards the Strait of Hormuz. He was coming from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and he still listed Singapore as his destination on his tracker.

Israel’s Channel 13, in a report without sources, said the assessment in Israel is that Iran was behind the blast. Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The explosion comes as Tehran increasingly breaches its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers to create influence over Washington. Iran seeks to pressure Biden to grant relief from sanctions it received under the deal former President Donald Trump abandoned nearly three years ago.

Iran also blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including a mysterious explosion. last summer that it destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility and the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a prominent Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program two decades ago.

Captain Ranjith Raja of data firm Refinitiv told the AP that the Israeli-owned ship had left the Persian Gulf on Thursday for Singapore. On Friday at 0230 GMT, the vessel stopped for at least 9 hours east of a main Omani port before turning 360 degrees and sailing to Dubai, likely for damage assessment and repairs, he said.

The ship arrived loaded with cargo from Europe. It unloaded vehicles at several ports in the region, Raja added, including Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with its last port of call at Dammam.

While the details of the blast were unclear, two US defense officials told the AP that the ship had suffered two holes on the port side and two on the starboard side, just above the waterline in the blast. . Officials said it was unclear what caused the holes. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss unpublished information about the incidents.

A United Nations ship database identified the ship’s owners as a Tel Aviv-based company called Ray Shipping Ltd. Calls to Ray Shipping went unanswered on Friday.

Abraham Ungar, 74, known as “Rami”, is the founder of Ray Shipping Ltd. and is known as one of the richest men in Israel. He made his fortune in shipping and construction.

According to the Nikola Y. Vaptsarov Naval Academy, where Ungar provides maritime support and training, it owns dozens of ships that carry cars and employs thousands of engineers.

The United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, said it was “aware of and monitoring” the situation.

While the circumstances of the blast remain unclear, Dryad Global said it was highly possible that the blast was due to “asymmetric activity by the Iranian military.”

As Iran seeks to pressure the United States to lift sanctions, the country may seek to “exercise forceful diplomacy through military means,” Dryad reported. Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident.

In the tense summer of 2019, the US military blamed Iran for the explosions of two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the most strategic shipping routes in the world. The United States had also attributed a series of other suspicious attacks to Iran, including the use of limpet mines, designed to magnetically attach to a ship’s hull, to paralyze four tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah.

Since the assassination of Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian nuclear scientist, last November, Israeli officials have raised the alarm about possible Iranian retaliation, including through their regional proxies such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Over the years, Iran has been linked to attacks on Israeli and Jewish civilian targets in Latin America, Europe and Asia. Israel has not commented on its alleged role in the murder of the scientist.

Friday’s incident also follows normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The accords, met with strong criticism from Iran, solidified an emerging regional alliance against the Islamic Republic.


Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman in Tel Aviv, Israel, Josef Federman in Jerusalem, and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.


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