Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Iran is responsible for the attack on an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman last week.
"This is clearly an Iranian operation, it's obvious" Netanyahu told Kan Bet public radio. When asked if Israel would respond, he replied: "You're familiar with my policies."
Overnight Thursday, the MV Helios Ray, a ship owned by an Israeli firm, was hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman. Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said Sunday that the attack was, for Israel, “a reminder that Iran is spreading terrorism and is acting against civilian targets."
Iran responded to Netanyahu's statement saying it “strongly rejected” the claim that it was behind the attack. In a press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Netanyahu was “suffering from an obsession with Iran” and described his charges as “fear-mongering."
Khatibzadeh added that "the security of the Persian Gulf is extremely important for Iran."
On Sunday evening, Syrian state media reported a series of alleged Israeli airstrikes near Damascus, saying air defense systems had intercepted most of the missiles. Israeli media reports said the alleged airstrikes were on Iranian targets in response to the ship attack.
On Saturday night, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that “based on the location and the context, the Iranians are behind the attack on the ship in the Gulf of Oman.”
A group of Israeli defense officials flew to Dubai on Saturday to investigate the attack. Defense officials believe that the Iran Revolutionary Guards's navy fired one or two missiles at the ship while it was near the Strait of Hormuz, knowing that it was Israeli-owned.
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The Helios Ray, which flies under the Bahamian flag, is owned by the Israeli firm Ray Shipping, which is registered in the Isle of Man. The ship sustained damage but no causalities. “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.
Maritime security firm Dryad Global said over the weekend that "Whilst details regarding the incident remain unclear it remains a realistic possibility that the event was the result of asymmetric activity by 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.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.