Monday, March 1, 2021

Israeli RoRo Car Carrier in Gulf of Oman Attacked by Iran Says Netanyahu

Syria Hit by Air Strikes in Retaliation and More Threatened
Shipping News Feature

GULF OF OMAN – An Israeli-owned Roll-on, Roll-off (RoRo) car carrier suffered damage after she was struck by explosions on Friday night while transiting eastbound through Gulf of Oman. The MV Helios Ray, which is flagged in the Bahamas and operated by Ray Car Carriers, had departed the Saudi Arabian port of Damman for Singapore when it suffered what the Israeli security services have described as an attack at around 23:40 local time.

According to US defence officials, the ship has suffered two holes each in both its port and starboard sides. No crew were harmed in the incident and the ship has since made its way to Dubai where it is docked for assessment and repair.

Pictures that are alleged to show the damage caused make it unclear as to whether the ship was struck by some sort of projectile/missile or explosive charges placed on the ship. Mines are unlikely as the damage is reported to be above the waterline.

The Israeli’s have now asserted that this was an attack by Iran. Speaking on Monday morning the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accused Iran directly of the attack and stated that:

“Iran is the greatest enemy of Israel. I am determined to halt it. We are hitting it in the entire region.”

His comments came after the Israeli Air Force (IAF) struck targets in Syria on Sunday night that are alleged to be linked to Iran and proxy-militia groups that they support in the country.

The Israeli military has declined to comment on the strikes, though a Syrian spokesperson said that their air defences had shot down most of the incoming missiles. This is a standard response and is generally proven false, with previous examples being Syrian Surface-to-Air missiles proceeding to hit the island of Cyprus and even, unfortunately, killing their own allies and civilians.

The attack occurs as tensions ramp up between Iran and the Gulf Arab States. On Saturday Houthi forces in Yemen fired a ballistic missile at the Saudi capital Riyadh, as well as at least six explosive equipped drones that were aimed at ‘military targets’ in the Saudi towns of Abha and Khamis Mushait. The Saudi military reported that they had intercepted all the missiles and destroyed them.

The Houthi’s are supported by Iran against Gulf Arab forces operating in Yemen and are considered an Iranian proxy as a result. They have demonstrated increasing sophistication over the years, including the use of anti-ship missiles alleged to have been supplied by the Iranians, and have attacked multiple merchantmen and military vessels both in the Red Sea and the Gulf.

However the new attacks do raise the prospect of greater cooperation between Israel and the Gulf Arab states, leading to the possibility of Israel not just striking at Iran’s proxy’s in Syria and Lebanon, but possibly directly against Iran itself.

The historic signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE, already in place with Egypt and Jordan and subsequently with several other Arab states, has seen a sea change in the politics of the region. Not only have the accords normalised relations between Israel and much of the Arab world, it has also potentially changed the military dynamic.

Israel not only withdrew its objections to the UAE purchasing advanced F-35 strike aircraft from the United States, it is also currently participating in the huge IDEX arms fair hosted by the UAE. This is the first time ever that this has occurred and signifies the breakneck speed that both the Gulf Arabs’ and the Israelis’ are moving in their new relationship.

In addition to the benefits of friendly relations between the historically hostile groups in terms of trade, the new threat from Iran is driving a previously unimaginable level of military cooperation in the region.

Whereas although the idea of Israeli jets operating from Arab bases would have seemed impossible a mere year ago, it is a great deal more likely now. And should both sides decide that some response must be made in the face of Iranian, and their proxies, attacks, it should be remembered that the Israelis have a long history of dealing with perceived threats and not giving a damn about international opinion on the matter.

Photo: The jury is out. This image tweeted by a crew member has been suggested to mean that a limpet mine style attack is more likely than a missile, a form of aggression we have seen recently reportedly from Iranian forces.

This piece was from a contribution by Ed Nash, a military expert and the author of the autobiographical 'Desert Sniper' and who writes on his own blog,