Military Chief Says Gulf Attack on Israeli Ship Is 'A Reminder Iran Is Spreading Terrorism'

Yaniv Kubovich
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The Israeli-owned cargo ship, Helios Ray, sits docked in port after arriving earlier in Dubai, on Sunday.
The Israeli-owned cargo ship, Helios Ray, sits docked in port after arriving earlier in Dubai, on Sunday.Credit: Kamran Jebreili/AP
Yaniv Kubovich

Over the weekend, Israel received “a reminder that Iran is spreading terrorism and is acting against civilian targets,” Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said Sunday, referring to an attack on Friday against an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman that Israeli officials believe that Iran was behind

Speaking at a ceremony marking a change of command at Unit 8200, an elite unit of the Intelligence Corps, Kochavi said “Iran not only constitutes a nuclear threat, but [also] spreads terrorism and carries out terrorism and acts against civilian targets.”

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On Saturday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that “based on the location and the context” of the attack on the Israeli-owned and Bahamian-flagged ship the Helios Ray, “the Iranians are behind the attack.” He was speaking on Kan Channel 11 public television.  

In his comments, Kochavi said, “All of the [military] theaters are active and all the theaters require intelligence updated in real time – against a rocket, against an incursion, against cybertechnology activity, against a ship and against a threat to an aircraft.”

Last month, Kochavi was criticized by defense officials for his remarks harshly criticizing a potential U.S. return to a nuclear agreement with Iran, and some officials argued the military chief overstepped his area of responsibility.

Israel's Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, left, U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., center, and Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Tel AvivCredit: Ariel Hermoni / Israel's Defense Ministry

An Israeli defense delegation left for Dubai on Saturday to oversee the investigation of the incident. Senior Israeli defense officials said over the weekend that Iran was behind the incident, which they said was intentional. Defense officials said they believed that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ navy fired one or two missiles at the ship while it was in the vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz and knew that it was an Israeli ship. 

The Helios Ray is owned by the Israeli firm Ray Shipping, a company registered in the Isle of Man. The ship sustained damage but none of its crew was injured. “There were 28 crew members on board. None were injured and nor was the engine room,” the company said following the incident. “It is on its way to the port of Dubai to undergo the necessary repairs.” The ship was initially en route to Singapore from Saudi Arabia at the time. 

The Dryad Global maritime security firm said there was a reasonable possibility that the attack was carried out by the Iranian military. Two American security sources told the Associated Press that the explosion blew holes in each side of the ship and that it had not yet been ascertained what caused the damage. The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain said it was aware of the incident and was following the situation in the region.Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said Sunday that Israel received “a reminder that Iran is spreading terrorism and is acting against civilian targets," referring to Friday's attack against an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman which Israel believes Iran was behind.

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