CAIRO (Reuters) – An Iranian freighter has been attacked in the Red Sea, Al Arabiya TV reported Tuesday, citing unidentified sources, and Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency said the ship was attacked by a limpet mine.
Al Arabiya quoted the sources as saying that the ship was attacked off the coast of Eritrea and was affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, but did not provide evidence to support the claim.
Tasnim identified the ship as Iran Saviz. “The Iran Saviz ship has been stationed in the Red Sea for the past few years to support Iranian commandos sent on commercial ship escort (anti-piracy) missions,” he reported.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the report. Iranian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
It was the latest in a series of attacks on Israeli and Iranian-owned cargo ships since late February in which the two arch-enemies accused each other of responsibility.
The incidents have occurred since US President Joe Biden took office in January pledging to rejoin the world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump in a move welcomed by Israel, if Tehran fully complies with the agreement again.
Iran and the United States on Tuesday launched indirect talks in Vienna that included the other powers on ways to reactivate the agreement. Both Iran and the United States called the talks “constructive.”
NETANYAHU CITES ‘IRANIC BELLIGERENCE’
Israeli officials declined to comment on the reported attack on the Iranian freighter on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, before news of the attack broke, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in remarks to lawmakers from his right-wing Likud party, said there should be no return to the “dangerous” nuclear deal, adding :
“At the same time, we must continue to defend Iranian belligerence in our region. And this threat is not a theoretical matter. I am not saying it rhetorically. We must take action against the fanatical Iranian regime, which is simply threatening to wipe us off the face of the earth. “
The Biden administration does not anticipate any change in Iran’s policy amid negotiations to restore the nuclear deal, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
There have been three other reported attacks on Iranian or Israeli-owned vessels since February 25.
On March 25, a cargo ship owned by an Israeli company was damaged by a missile in the Arabian Sea in what was suspected to be an Iranian attack, according to a senior Israeli security official. The ship was able to continue its journey, he said.
Two weeks earlier, Iranian state media quoted an Iranian investigator as saying that Israel was most likely behind an explosion that set a small fire on an Iranian container ship in the Mediterranean.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz declined to comment directly at the time, but said Iran regularly sent weapons to its representatives in the region.
On February 26, Netanyahu blamed Iran for an explosion aboard an Israeli-owned vehicle-carrying ship in the Gulf of Oman. A US official said the blast blew holes in both sides of his hull and an Israeli official said limpet mines were used. Iran denied its responsibility.
Report of Ahmed Tolba and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Written by the Dubai newsroom; Editing by Howard Goller and Mark Heinrich