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Iran-Israel: a shadow war with ships

  • Published at 06:55 am August 3rd, 2021
The Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned Liberian-flagged tanker
The Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned Liberian-flagged tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime that was attacked off Oman coast as seen in Cape Town, South Africa, December 31, 2015 Reuters

In the latest incident, two crew members of the tanker MT Mercer Street, managed by an Israeli firm, are killed in what appears to be a drone attack off Oman on July 29

Since February this year, Iran and its arch-enemy Israel have been engaged in a "shadow war" in which vessels linked to each nation have come under attack in waters around the Gulf in tit-for-tat exchanges.

A recap:

MV Helios Ray 

On February 25, the Israeli-owned vehicle carrier Helios Ray is hit off the Gulf of Oman while sailing from the Saudi city of Dammam to Singapore. An explosion holes the hull in two places but causes no casualties.

Iran denies Israeli charges that it carried out the attack.

Iran Shahr-e-Kord

On March 10, the Iranian ship Shahr-e-Kord, owned by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines group (IRISL), is en route from Iran to Europe when its hull is hit with "an explosive device".

In a March 11 report citing US and Middle East officials, the Wall Street Journal says Israel has targeted with mines at least a dozen vessels bound for Syria and mostly carrying Iranian oil since late 2019.

Tehran is "considering all options" in response, the foreign ministry says on March 15. "Given the location of the sabotage, there is every reason to think that the occupying regime in Jerusalem is behind this operation," it says.


On April 6, Tehran says that the "Iranian commercial vessel" MV Saviz has been struck by a blast while off the coast of Djibouti.

Iran's Tasnim news agency reports that the Saviz had been damaged by "magnetic mines".

Also Read - Israel wants UN action against Iran over deadly ship attack

It says the ship has been stationed in the Red Sea for several years "in support of Iranian commandos deployed to escort commercial vessels".

The New York Times cited a US official as saying Israel had informed Washington it had struck the vessel in "retaliation for earlier Iranian strikes on Israeli vessels".

Hyprion Ray

On April 13, an Israeli-operated ship is attacked off the UAE opposite the Iranian coast.

Security sources quoted by Israel's Channel 12 television say the Hyperion Ray was "lightly damaged" near the Emirati port of Fujairah, and suspect Iran of carrying out the attack.

Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen television also reports that the Bahamas-flagged Hyperion Ray, operated by Israeli firm Ray Shipping, had come under fire.

MT Mercer Street 

On July 29, two crew members of the tanker MT Mercer Street, managed by a prominent Israeli businessman's company, are killed in what appears to be a drone attack off Oman, the vessel's London-based operator and the US military say, with Israel blaming Iran.

Zodiac Maritime, owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, says the incident killed one Romanian and a Briton who was a guard for maritime security firm Ambrey.

Tehran denies involvement and vows to respond to any "adventurism".              

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