DUBAI (Reuters) - Israel is highly likely to have been behind an attack in the Mediterranean this week that damaged an Iranian container ship, an Iranian investigator said on Saturday, Iran’s media reported.
The Shahr e Kord vessel was hit by an explosive object which caused a small fire, but no one on board was hurt, Iran said on Friday. Two maritime security sources said initial indications suggested the ship was intentionally targeted by an unknown source.
“Considering the geographical location and the way the ship was targeted, one of the strong possibilities is that this terrorist operation was carried out by the Zionist regime (Israel),” an unnamed member of the Iranian team investigating the incident was quoted as saying by semi-official Nournews.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz declined to comment directly about the incident when addressing a webinar on Saturday hosted by his Blue and White party, but he said Iran regularly sent weapons to its proxies in the region.
“We foil arms supplies and other things relating to operational development and military capabilities by air, sea and land,” Gantz said. “And by this I am not saying whether we did or did not do this or that.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said reports confirmed an act of sabotage in violation of international law, state media said. “Measures to identify the perpetrators of this sabotage action are on the agenda,” he said.
The Iranian investigator said explosive projectiles could have been fired from an aerial vehicle, hitting containers on the ship’s deck.
Iran’s state-run shipping company IRISL said it would take legal action to identify the perpetrators of the attack, which it called terrorism and naval piracy.
The incident came two weeks after an Israeli-owned ship the MV HELIOS RAY was hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman.
The cause was not immediately clear, although a U.S. defence official said the blast left holes in both sides of the vessel’s hull. Israel accused Iran of being behind the explosion, a charge the Islamic Republic denied.
Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Clelia Oziel and Edmund Blair
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