An Israeli-owned ship was targeted in suspected Iranian attack in Indian Ocean, US official tells AP

An Israeli-owned ship was targeted in suspected Iranian attack in Indian Ocean, US official tells AP

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A maritime container vessel belonging to an Israeli magnate was assaulted by what is thought to be an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle in the Indian Ocean amidst Israel’s operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, a US defense correspondent conveyed on Saturday.

The assault on the CMA CGM Symi on Friday occurs while international maritime transport increasingly finds itself ensnared in the numerous weeks of warfare that poses the risk of escalating into a larger regional dispute — although a ceasefire has ceased the hostilities and Hamas facilitates an exchange of hostages in return for Palestinian inmates detained by Israel.

The defense correspondent, who conversed with The Associated Press under the guise of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of intelligence discourse, suggested the Malta-registered ship likely fell victim to a bomb-laden, delta-winged Shahed-136 drone while sailing in international waters. The drone detonated, inflicting harm to the vessel without causing injuries to its personnel.

“We remain vigilant and continue to track the situation,” the representative affirmed. While declining to provide detailed accounts based on the US military’s intelligence pinpointing Iran as the perpetrator, it is believed Tehran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard executed the strike.

The identical drones have figured in Russia’s military engagements in Ukraine, as observed in the most extensive unmanned aerial vehicular onslaught on Saturday that Kyiv described as the greatest since the onset of the conflict.

Al-Mayadeen, a pan-Arab broadcasting network which supports the views of the Iranian-aligned Lebanese militant faction Hezbollah, announced that an Israeli seafaring vessel had been struck in the Indian Ocean. The channel’s report was founded on undisclosed information sources, which the Iranian outlets later quoted.

CMA CGM, a prominent shipping firm headquartered in Marseille, France, diverted inquiries to the Symi’s proprietor, Eastern Pacific Shipping based in Singapore. This company is, in turn, under the dominion of Israeli tycoon Idan Ofer.

A statement on behalf of Eastern Pacific declared the entity’s recognition of “claims that a maritime container vessel managed by the company was the focus of a potential security episode the night of Friday.”

“The vessel is maintaining its intended course,” the statement confirmed. “The crew is secure and unharmed.”

When solicited for additional information, the firm’s representatives opted not to remark. The Israeli defense forces redirected inquiries to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has yet to offer a comment.

In November 2022, the Pacific Zircon, a petroleum tanker sailing under the Liberian flag and also tied to Eastern Pacific, sustained impairment in a strike off Oman, which was thought to be the work of Iran.

Lately, the crew of the Symi acted as though they were under the impression of an imminent threat to the ship.

The vessel had deactivated its Automatic Identification System tracker since Tuesday when it embarked from Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, according to analyses by the AP from data obtained via MarineTraffic.com. Vessels are mandated to maintain active AIS for safety purposes, but crews may deactivate if there is an inkling they could become a target. A similar precaution was taken earlier during the ship’s journey through the Red Sea near Yemen, home to the Houthi rebels backed by Iran.

“The attack was most likely intentional, owing to the vessel’s connection to Israel through Eastern Pacific Shipping,” deduced the private intelligence company Ambrey as it communicated with the AP. “The deactivation of the vessel’s AIS transmissions days before the incident suggests this act alone cannot avert an assault.”

The mission of Iran to the United Nations had no response to a request for a statement. Nonetheless, Tehran and Israel have been locked in a clandestine conflict across the broader Middle East for years, with numerous drone strikes aiming at vessels associated with Israel traversing the region.

During the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which commenced with the militant faction’s attack on Oct. 7, the Houthis confiscated a vehicle carrier ship in the Red Sea close to Yemen.

On Saturday, the British defense’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, responsible for cautioning sailors in the Middle East, reported that “an entity proclaiming itself as Yemeni authorities” had instructed at least one ship to vacate a region off Hodeida, Yemen, in the Red Sea.

“Ships nearby are cautioned to remain alert and report any questionable activities,” it advised.

Militias in Iraq supported by Iran have also commenced strikes against American soldiers stationed in Iraq and Syria within the stretch of the conflict. Albeit, there have been no direct linkages of Iran to an assault.

“Iran has demonstrated caution in engaging in the ongoing crisis of the Middle East and aims to steer clear of any acts that might intensify the strife,” suggested the geopolitical analysis firm Eurasia Group. “Tentative assaults on US forces and Israel by allies of Iran imply Tehran’s readiness to mildly escalate tensions, but absent US fatalities or severe damages, significant US retaliatory measures seem improbable.”

Concurrently on Saturday, Bahrain’s official press agency disclosed that its national airline, Gulf Air, had fallen victim to a cyber incursion which possibly led to “some data from its electronic mailing and client systems” being compromised.

A pronouncement posted on the internet by a self-styled faction identifying itself as Al-Toufan, roughly translated to “The Flood” in Arabic, took the credit for the cyber-attack on Gulf Air. A few days prior, another declaration bore the claim of hacking the Foreign Ministry among other governmental online platforms, allegedly as a reprisal against the nation’s stance in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.


Isabel DeBre contributed this report from Jerusalem.

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