Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for last week’s attack on an Israeli cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman and vowed to retaliate against his country’s “greatest enemy”.
The Israeli prime minister’s latest accusation against Tehran – made in an interview with public broadcaster Kan Radio on Sunday night – will complicate US President Joe Biden’s attempts to improve relations with Iran and bring him back to nuclear talks.
The explosion struck the MV Helios Ray, an Israeli cargo ship carrying automobiles, as it left the Middle East for Singapore.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday that his country had “categorically” denied the allegations, adding that the Gulf and Arabian Sea “are our inseparable security fields and we will not allow such remarks. create. [Irano-] phobia in the area ”.
Saeed Khatibzadeh went on to refer to Israel as the occupation regime in Jerusalem, and vowed to respond “appropriately” to Israeli aggression.
Iran’s official denial came despite an analysis by the Kayhan newspaper – the spokesperson for Iranian extremists – which described the attack on the ship as a warning to Israel that its recent diplomatic thaw along with the UAE and Bahrain, this is unlikely to lead to further entrenchment in the waters of southern Iran.
He added that after “the ship, which is most likely a warship, was targeted in a very professional manner” and “whoever was responsible”, the Jewish state would “come out of its illusions” that its attacks could not be answered.
Netanyahu’s interview aired the same day the Syrian government accused Israel of hitting Iranian targets within its borders overnight.
Israel did not claim responsibility for the latest attack, although its army struck hundreds of Iranian targets in Syria over the past year.
Last week, the United States launched airstrikes in Syria after accusing Iranian-backed Shiite militias of attacking a base housing American troops near Erbil in northern Iraq, which has killed a civilian contractor and injured an American soldier.
The Pentagon said there was no evidence Iran was behind Erbil’s attack, but the incident prompted Biden to authorize airstrikes against Iranian-backed Iraqi militias in Syria, his first military act as president.
Iran on weekends rejected the prospect of direct negotiations with Washington until Biden called off his predecessor’s maximum pressure campaign of punitive sanctions, a policy championed by Netanyahu.
“Iran will not have nuclear weapons, with or without a deal, and I told President Biden,” Netanyahu told Kan Radio.
Tehran has threatened in recent weeks to suspend short-notice inspections of the UN watchdog that monitors atomic activity in the Islamic Republic.
Yoav Galant, a former Navy commando now serving as Israel’s education minister, told Ynet News that photos of damage to the cargo ship indicated several mines had been attached to its exterior, echoing the text message from a military official at the Financial Times who said it “looked like a limpet” mine.
Israel’s security cabinet to consider proposal to provide naval escorts to Israeli-owned ships in the Gulf; Israel-related commercial traffic has increased measurably since the signing of diplomatic agreements in 2020.
Iran has seized and reportedly attacked at least half a dozen international tankers in southern Gulf waters since May 2019, after sanctions were imposed by Donald Trump. He also shot down an American drone accused of entering Iranian airspace.
Iran also promised to avenge on November murder of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a veteran nuclear scientist, whom he blamed on Israeli agents.
Fakhrizadeh, who had been named by Netanyahu as the mastermind of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, was killed in a complex operation on a highway outside Tehran. Israel never claimed responsibility for the assassination, nor did it deny having participated in it.