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Israeli-owned cargo ship, damaged by explosions blamed on Iran, back at sea

MV Helios Ray leaves Dubai port after repairs and heads toward Arabian Sea, according to satellite-tracking data

The Israeli-owned cargo ship, MV Helios Ray, sits docked in port after arriving earlier in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, February 28, 2021. (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
The Israeli-owned cargo ship, MV Helios Ray, sits docked in port after arriving earlier in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, February 28, 2021. (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

An Israeli-owned cargo ship that suffered a mysterious explosion last week has left Dubai’s port and was transiting the Gulf of Oman on Wednesday, satellite tracking data showed. The suspected attack has raised tensions in the region.

The giant MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship, was sailing along the Omani coast toward the Arabian Sea, according to satellite-tracking data from website MarineTraffic.com, days after docking in Dubai for repairs. Overnight, the vessel passed through the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil traded by sea flows. Its destination remained unclear.

Last week, a blast struck the cargo ship in the same waterway, raising alarms about ship security in the Mideast. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Israel’s regional foe Iran of attacking the ship. Iran swiftly denied the charge.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan on Tuesday asked the Security Council to condemn Iran for the explosion. In letters sent to US Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is currently serving as the rotating president of the Security Council, Erdan alleged the February 25 attack was carried out by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

On Monday, Netanyahu said it was “clear” Iran was behind the explosion. Asked by the Kan public broadcaster whether Israel would respond to the attack on the ship, Netanyahu said Iran “is Israel’s biggest enemy and we are striking them across the region.”

The explosion reportedly punched two holes in the vessel’s port side and two on its starboard side, just above the waterline. The incident recalled the summer of 2019, when the US military blamed Iran for a series of suspected attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. The Navy had alleged that Iran used limpet mines — designed to be attached magnetically to a ship’s hull — to strike some of the vessels. Iran denied any role in the suspected assaults.

Tensions between Iran and the West have escalated in recent weeks as Iran accelerates its nuclear program, seeking to pressure the United States to grant sanctions relief it received under its tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. In the current standoff, each side is insisting the other move first to return to the deal, which former US president Donald Trump abandoned nearly three years ago.

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