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US officials: An Israeli-owned ship was targeted in Indian Ocean

A container ship owned by an Israeli billionaire came under attack by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean as Israel wages war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, an American defense official said Saturday.

Quick Read

  1. Israeli Ship Targeted: The CMA CGM Symi, a container ship owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer, was attacked in the Indian Ocean, potentially by an Iranian drone.
  2. Nature of the Attack: The suspected attack involved a Shahed-136 drone, which exploded and caused damage to the ship. Thankfully, no crew members were injured.
  3. U.S. Intelligence Involvement: An American defense official indicated that the U.S. is closely monitoring the situation, and the attack is suspected to have been carried out by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
  4. Context of Regional Conflict: The attack occurred amidst the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, highlighting the increasing targeting of global shipping in the conflict.
  5. Use of Shahed-136 Drones: These drones have been utilized in Russia’s war on Ukraine, including in recent attacks, indicating their growing presence in international conflicts.
  6. Ship’s Precautionary Measures: Prior to the attack, the CMA CGM Symi had turned off its Automatic Identification System, a possible indication of anticipated threats.
  7. Previous Similar Incidents: In November 2022, the Pacific Zircon, another ship linked to Eastern Pacific Shipping, was damaged in a suspected Iranian attack off Oman.
  8. Iran-Israel Shadow War: This event is part of a longer-term shadow war between Iran and Israel, often involving maritime incidents.
  9. Response from Involved Parties: CMA CGM deferred inquiries to Eastern Pacific Shipping, and responses from relevant Israeli authorities and the ship’s owner are pending.
  10. Wider Regional Implications: The attack highlights broader tensions in the region, with Iranian-backed forces in Iraq also engaging in actions against U.S. forces during the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The Associated Press has the story:

US officials: An Israeli-owned ship was targeted in Indian Ocean

Newslooks- DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP)

A container ship owned by an Israeli billionaire came under attack by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean as Israel wages war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, an American defense official said Saturday.

The attack Friday on the CMA CGM Symi comes as global shipping increasingly finds itself targeted in the weekslong war that threatens to become a wider regional conflict — even as a truce has halted fighting and Hamas exchanges hostages for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

The defense official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said the Malta-flagged vessel was suspected to have been targeted by a triangle-shaped, bomb-carrying Shahed-136 drone while in international waters. The drone exploded, causing damage to the ship but not injuring any of its crew.

“We continue to monitor the situation closely,” the official said. The official declined to elaborate on what intelligence the U.S. military gathered to assess Iran was behind the attack, though authorities suspect Tehran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard carried out the assault.

The same drones have been used by Russia in its war on Ukraine, as recently as in a barrage launched Saturday that Kyiv described as Moscow’s biggest drone attack since the war began.

Journalists and family members of the two journalists of pan-Arab TV network Al-Mayadeen who were killed by an Israeli strike wait for the bodies outside the station’s headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. An Israeli strike on southern Lebanon killed Tuesday two journalists reporting for the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV on the violence along the border with Israel, according to the Lebanese information minister and their TV station. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Al-Mayadeen, a pan-Arab satellite channel that is politically allied with the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, reported that an Israeli ship had been targeted in the Indian Ocean. The channel cited anonymous sources for the report, which Iranian media later cited.

CMA CGM, a major shipper based in Marseille, France, referred questions to the Symi’s owner, Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping. That company is ultimately controlled by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer.

A phone number for Eastern Pacific Shipping in Singapore rang unanswered Saturday, while no one responded to a request for comment sent by email. The Israeli military referred questions to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which did not respond.

In November 2022, the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Pacific Zircon, also associated with Eastern Pacific, sustained damage in a suspected Iranian attack off Oman.

In this photo provided by Manuel Hernandez Lafuente, the CMA CGM Symi is seen at port in Valencia, Spain, Oct. 22, 2023. A container ship owned by an Israeli billionaire came under attack by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean as Israel wages war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, an American defense official said Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (Manuel Hernandez Lafuente via AP)

In recent days, the Symi’s crew had been behaving as though they believed the ship faced a threat.

The ship had its Automatic Identification System tracker switched off since Tuesday when it left Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, according to data from analyzed by the AP. Ships are supposed to keep their AIS active for safety reasons, but crews will turn them off if it appears they might be targeted. It had done the same earlier when traveling through the Red Sea past Yemen, home to the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

“The attack is likely to have been targeted, due to the vessel’s Israeli affiliation through Eastern Pacific Shipping,” the private intelligence firm Ambrey told the AP. “The vessel’s AIS transmissions were off days prior to the event, indicating this alone does not prevent an attack.”

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment. However, Tehran and Israel have been engaged in a yearslong shadow war in the wider Middle East, with some drone attacks targeting Israeli-associated vessels traveling around the region.

In the Israel-Hamas war, which began with the militants’ Oct. 7 attack, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship in the Red Sea off Yemen.

On Saturday, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which provides warnings to sailors in the Mideast, said “an entity declaring itself to be the Yemeni authorities” had ordered at least one ship away from a location off Hodeida, Yemen, in the Red Sea.

“Vessels in the vicinity are advised to exercise caution and report any suspicious activity,” it warned.

Iranian-backed militias in Iraq also have launched attacks on American troops in both Iraq and Syria during the war. However, Iran itself has yet to be linked directly to an attack.

“Iran has been wary of intervening in the ongoing Middle East crisis and is likely to avoid any action that might escalate the conflict,” the Eurasia Group, a geopolitical risk firm, said in an analysis. “Small-scale attacks on U.S. forces and Israel by Iran’s allies throughout the region suggest Tehran is willing to turn up the heat in a limited fashion, but unless the attacks cause U.S. casualties or significant damage, a major U.S. response is unlikely.”

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