CAIRO, April 6 (Reuters) – An Iranian cargo ship has come under attack in the Red Sea, Al Arabiya TV reported on Tuesday, quoting unnamed sources, and semi-official Iranian news agency Tasnim said the vessel was targeted by a limpet mine.
Al Arabiya cited the sources as saying the vessel was attacked off the coast of Eritrea and was affiliated with Iran‘s Revolutionary Guards, but provided no evidence to support the assertion.
Tasnim identified the ship as the Iran Saviz. “The vessel Iran Saviz has been stationed in the Red Sea for the past few years to support Iranian commandos sent on commercial vessel (anti-piracy) escort missions,” it reported.
Reuters could not independently verify the report. Iranian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
It was the latest in a reported series of attacks on Israeli- and Iranian-owned cargo ships since late February in which the two arch-enemies accused each other of responsibility.
The incidents have occurred since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January with a commitment to rejoin world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Iran – abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump in a move welcomed by Israel – if Tehran returns to full compliance with the deal.
Iran and the United States on Tuesday launched indirect talks in Vienna that included the other powers on ways to revive the deal. Both Iran and the United States called the talks “constructive.”
NETANYAHU CITES ‘IRANIAN BELLIGERENCE’
Israeli officials declined comment on Tuesday’s reported attack on the Iranian cargo ship.
Earlier in the day, before news broke about the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in comments to lawmakers of his right-wing Likud party, said there should be no return to the “dangerous” nuclear accord and added:
“In parallel we must continue to fend off Iranian belligerence in our region. And this threat is no theoretical matter. I’m not uttering it rhetorically. We must take action in the face of the fanatical regime in Iran, which simply threatens to wipe us off the face of the earth.”
The Biden administration is not anticipating any changes on Iran policy amid the negotiations over reinstating the nuclear deal, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.
There have been three other reported attacks on Iranian- or Israeli-owned shipping since Feb. 25.
On March 25 a cargo ship owned by an Israeli company was damaged by a missile in the Arabian Sea in what was suspected to be an Iranian attack, according to a senior Israeli security official. The ship was able to continue its journey, he said.
Two weeks before, Iranian state media quoted an Iranian investigator as saying Israel was highly likely to have been behind an explosion that caused a small fire on an Iranian container ship in the Mediterranean.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz declined to comment directly at the time but said Iran regularly sent weapons to its proxies in the region.
On Feb. 26, Netanyahu blamed Iran for an explosion aboard an Israeli-owned vehicle-carrier ship in the Gulf of Oman. A U.S. official said the blast ripped holes in both sides of its hull and an Israeli official said limpet mines were used. Iran denied responsibility.
(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Howard Goller and Mark Heinrich)