JEDDAH: An Israeli ship hit by an explosion off the coast of Oman was “a legitimate target” attacked by Iran and its allies, a hard-line Iranian media outlet claimed on Sunday.

The MV Helios Ray, a vehicle carrier, was traveling from the Gulf to Singapore on Thursday when the blast blew two holes in its hull.

Kayhan, Iran’s leading ultraconservative daily, claimed the vessel was “a military ship belonging to the Israeli army” and was “gathering information” about the Arabian Gulf and the Sea of Oman when it was targeted.

According to unnamed “military experts,” the newspaper said: “This spy ship, although it was sailing secretly, may have fallen into the ambush of one of the branches of the resistance axis,” a phrase used by the Tehran regime to describe Iran and its allies.

Israel’s “attacks and crimes in the region, which have been going on publicly for some time, seem to have finally made it a legitimate target,” Kayhan said.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz also said Israel’s initial assessment was that Iran was responsible for the explosion aboard the vessel. “This … takes into account the proximity to Iran and the context,” he said. “This is what I believe.”

The US and Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for a number of attacks on shipping in Gulf waters in mid-2019, using limpet mines to blow holes in two Saudi oil tankers, and former US President Donald Trump came close to ordering an attack on Iran in retaliation.

The Helios Ray arrived on Sunday at Port Rashid in Dubai, where it will be assessed in dry dock, and an Israeli delegation traveled to Dubai to investigate the attack.

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Rami Ungar, the Israeli businessman who owns the vessel, said the explosion caused two holes above the waterline about a meter and a half in diameter. It was not yet clear if the damage was caused by missiles or mines attached to the ship, he said.



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