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IDF said to probe 1,200 troops without finding source of leaks on Iran ship sabotage

Massive investigation fails to establish who leaked info on strikes against 12 vessels, mostly carrying oil, reported last year by Wall Street Journal

This photo taken on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, and released by the official news agency of the Iranian Oil Ministry, SHANA, shows the scene of damage by two missiles that allegedly struck the Iranian oil tanker Sabiti, at the Red Sea. (SHANA via AP)
This photo taken on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, and released by the official news agency of the Iranian Oil Ministry, SHANA, shows the scene of damage by two missiles that allegedly struck the Iranian oil tanker Sabiti, at the Red Sea. (SHANA via AP)

The IDF reportedly launched a massive probe of 1,200 soldiers in a failed attempt to find the source of leaked information reported in foreign media last year about alleged Israeli attacks on Iranian oil tankers.

The army’s information security division reviewed the soldiers’ communications. Ten were questioned.

Details of the investigation, which ended a few months ago, were first reported by the Kan public broadcaster on Wednesday.

The search came in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report from March 2021 that cited “US and regional officials” as saying Israel had used mines and other weapons against at least 12 Iranian ships, mostly carrying oil, that were heading to Syria. The Wall Street Journal report did not say if the officials cited were from the military, or if they were from another part of the defense or political establishment.

As a result of the leak, the attorney general at the time, Avichai Mandelblit, decided an investigation was needed and sought opinions from the IDF, the Shin Bet internal security service and the Mossad spy agency.

In response, the IDF told legal officials that “the potential security damage of publication of the material is very serious, but it was not shown that actual damage was caused,” Kan reported.

Screen capture from video said to show the Iranian ship MV Saviz, on fire following an explosion as it was anchored off the coast of Yemen. (Screenshot: Twitter)

The IDF also noted that while 1,200 soldiers were exposed to information about the secret missions, only 450 of them had signed secrecy contracts.

The Movement for a Quality Government lobby group had petitioned for a criminal investigation into the leaks.

In a response to the Kan report, the IDF said in a statement that the source of the leak was not found.

“In the wake of the results, recommendations were made and guidelines were refined among all those relevant in the IDF and they are already being implemented,” the army noted.

State Prosecutor Amit Aisman decided on Tuesday that there was no need to open a criminal investigation, in part due to the large number of people who could have leaked the information and the small chance of identifying the source, Kan reported.

Amit Aisman at a ceremony at the Justice Ministry on June 28, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Wall Street Journal said the attacks started in late 2019 and targeted both Iranian vessels and other ships with Iranian cargo.

Some of the alleged Israeli strikes, which took place in the Red Sea and other areas, targeted Iran-linked weapons shipments, the report said.

The attacks did not sink the tankers, but forced at least two of the vessels to return to port in Iran.

Israel sought to halt the trade in oil because it believed the profits were financing regional extremists, the report said.

Israel declined to comment to The Wall Street Journal for the report.

The attacks marked a new front in the shadow war between Israel and Iran.

In February 2021, a month before the report came out, Israel said Iran was behind a blast on an Israeli-owned ship in the Persian Gulf; Iran denied the charge.

Some sources said the explosion on the MV Helios Ray, a tanker carrying cars, was caused by limpet mines. The damage forced the ship to port for repairs but did not disable it or injure any crew.

In the tense summer of 2019, the US military blamed Iran for explosions on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most strategic shipping lanes.

Then in October of that year, a senior Iranian lawmaker blamed Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia for an alleged attack on an Iranian oil tanker off the Saudi coast.

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