An Iranian container ship was damaged in a "terrorist" attack in the Mediterranean on Wednesday, a spokesman for state-run shipping company IRISL told semi-official Nournews on Friday.
The ship, Shahre Kord, was slightly damaged by an explosive object which caused a small fire, but no one on board was hurt, the spokesman, Ali Ghiasian, said.
"Such terrorist acts amount to naval piracy, and are contrary to international law on commercial shipping security, and legal action will be taken to identify the perpetrators through relevant international institutions," Ghiasi said.
The vessel was headed to Europe when the attack occurred and will leave for its destination after repairs, he added.
The company's announcement of the incident came a day after The Wall Street Journal reported that Israel has attacked naval vessels heading to Syria several times since late 2019, fearing that oil sales are funding regional extremism.
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At least a dozen vessels, both Iranian and those carrying Iranian cargo, have been targeted, and were mainly carrying Iranian oil, according to the report. The newspaper quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying that some of the attacks targeted other cargo, including weapons. Israel declined to comment on the attacks, the Wall Street Journal said.
Iranian shipping professionals told the Wall Street Journal that there haven't been reports of ships being sunk by the attacks, but that at least two ships have had to return to port, delaying the oil's delivery to Syria. A source also told the newspaper that U.S. officials tacitly supported the attacks during former President Donald Trump's administration – and analysts told it that there was no sign that the U.S. would obstruct further such actions.
The incident also 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 Tehran denied.
In a speech to Israeli navy cadets in 2019, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of increased oil smuggling by sea to circumvent U.S. sanctions, and said the navy corps would "have a more important role in blocking these Iranian actions." He did not elaborate on what that might entail.
Israel has separately said it is waging a covert "campaign between wars" to deny Iranian allies on its borders arms and other support from Tehran.
"We do not comment on the campaign we are waging, in the operational regard," Israeli security cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Tel Aviv radio 102 FM when asked about the Journal report.
"But we always emphasize [that] we must be poised against Iranian belligerence on all fronts...and I suppose this also includes the air and sea arenas, as well as on land."