Report: Israel Has Been Attacking Iranian Tankers Since 2019

The hull of the Iranian tanker Sabiti after an alleged missile attack, October 2019. The responsible actor has not been named (Image courtesy NITC)

Published Mar 12, 2021 8:02 PM by The Maritime Executive

Israel has been conducting a clandestine campaign to attack Iranian shipments to Syria over the course of the past year, U.S. officials have told the Wall Street Journal. At least 12 Iranian vessels have been targeted since 2019, according to the report

The Israeli government acknowledges that it has an ongoing campaign to counter Iranian arms flows and influence activities, but it has declined to confirm any specifics. The campaign is said to be intended to disrupt Iran's oil trade with Syria and to intercept its arms shipments to its regional proxy forces. 

The report does not name any specific vessels, but the revelations would help to explain a series of adverse events aboard Iranian-owned vessels in recent years. In October 2019, the Iranian tanker Sabiti released tens of thousands of barrels of oil into the Red Sea after what Iranian government officials described as a series of missile strikes. At the time, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the incident "wasn't a terrorist move, nor was it carried out by an individual - it was carried out by a government."

The damage may go both ways. Last month, Israel accused Iran of involvement in an attack that blew holes in both sides of the hull of the Israeli-owned car carrier Helios Ray. Iran has also been accused of masterminding a series of limpet mine attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman, along with more overt acts, like the boarding and detention of the tankers Hankuk Chemi and Stena Impero

Iran reports a new attack

On Friday, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) reported a "terrorist attack" on the boxship Shahr E Kord off the coast of Syria. The vessel was bound for Europe when she was struck by a projectile, according to IRISL, resulting in a small amount of cargo damage. The report has not been independently verified. 

"According to the report received, after the explosive object hit the hull of the ship, a small fire occurred at the site of the explosion, which was immediately contained by the timely efforts of the commander and crew of the ship," said Ali Ghiasian, a spokesman for IRISL, speaking to Nour News. "Such terrorist acts, such as piracy, are against international law."