Former Israeli-led cargo ship likely struck by Iran: Official

JEDDAH (Saudi Arabia) • A commercial ship previously owned by an Israeli-led company was attacked in the Indian Ocean on Saturday in what appeared to be the latest tit-for-tat in a shadowy regional conflict between Israel and Iran.

The ship, which had been owned until recently by Zodiac Maritime, a London-based firm led by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, was believed to have come under assault by an Iranian drone or naval commandos, an Israeli national security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said there was minor damage to the ship CSAV Tyndall, but no one was injured.

The vessel was recently taken over by a company with no Israeli connection, said a source familiar with the vessel's history.

The attack on the ship, which was headed from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to the port city of Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates, came amid efforts between the United States and Iran to revive their 2015 nuclear deal, which the Israeli government has opposed.

It also occurred about 10 days after Iran's Atomic Energy Agency said an attack on one of its facilities had been foiled. But satellite images of the site that were unveiled on Saturday showed it had significant damage.

Israel stayed mum on that attack. But the site, one of Iran's main manufacturing centres for the production of centrifuges, was on a list of targets that Israel presented to the Trump administration early last year.

Iran did not officially take responsibility for the maritime attack on Saturday, but media outlets in Iran and the broader Middle East that is sympathetic to Iran reported widely on the attack.

In an apparent reference to the attack, a Telegram channel run by the elite Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the foreign-facing branch of the country's powerful security apparatus, posted an old photo of a ship on fire.

Israel and Iran have for years been fighting each other, often through proxies, in many countries throughout the Middle East, on land and in the air. The adversaries recently opened a new front in their conflict on the high seas.

Since 2019, Israel has been attacking ships carrying Iranian oil and weapons through the eastern Mediterranean and Red Seas.

Iran has engaged in its own maritime attacks. In March and April, Israeli-owned ships came under Iranian fire, said Israeli officials.

Saturday's attack, the Israeli national security official said, was thought to have resulted from a miscalculation by Iran.

Zodiac Maritime said it no longer owned the ship. A database belonging to the United Nations' International Maritime Organisation showed the ship is owned by another London-based firm named Polar 5.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2021, with the headline 'Former Israeli-led cargo ship likely struck by Iran: Official'. Subscribe