An Iranian-flagged ship in the Red Sea was hit by a limpet mine on Tuesday, the semi-official Tasnim news agency said.
Arabic media reports claimed the ship, Saviz, was an intelligence-gathering vessel linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Tasnim said Saviz “has been stationed in the Red Sea for the past few years to support Iranian commandos who are sent to escort commercial vessels.”
Al Arabiya claimed Israeli commandos were behind the operation, citing unnamed sources. Israel has not commented on the reported attack.
Limpet mines are a type of naval explosive that attach to targets using magnets.
Iran confirmed that the ship had been damaged by at least one mine.
Channel 12 reported that an intelligence firm believed the ship was used by the IRGC for surveillance and espionage purposes and was known to western intelligence.
The ImageSat intelligence firm said satellite imagery showed the ship has hardly moved in the past two years, strengthening suspicions that it was used to monitor maritime activities in the area.
Unnamed American officials told Reuters that the United States was not responsible for the attack.
Israel and Iran have accused each other recently of attacking a number of merchant ships, damaging them with explosives. The vessels in each case were only lightly damaged and there were no injuries in the incidents.
On February 26, a blast struck the Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged cargo ship, in the Gulf of Oman. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of attacking the ship. Iran swiftly denied the charge, but experts say the attack bears hallmarks of previous attacks ascribed to Tehran.
The operation seemed to have been carefully planned, and mirrored a series of attacks on tankers in 2019 and an Iranian campaign against shipping vessels four decades ago.
Another Israeli-owned vessel reportedly came under missile fire in the Gulf of Oman in late March, possibly by Iranian forces.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Israel has targeted at least 12 ships bound for Syria, most of them transporting Iranian oil, with mines and other weapons.
The alleged attacks mark a new front in the shadow war between Israel and Iran.
Iran, whose leaders have repeatedly called for Israel’s demise, backs the Hezbollah terrorist group, as well as terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli military has launched hundreds of airstrikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 against moves by Iran to establish a permanent military presence in the country and efforts to transport advanced, “game-changing” weapons to terrorist groups in the region, principally Hezbollah.
Iran has blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including a mysterious explosion last summer that destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility and the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program two decades ago.
Tensions have heated in the Middle East in recent months, as Iran repeatedly violated the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers ahead of possible talks with the Biden administration.