Israel urges UN Security Council to censure Iran for blast on Israeli-owned ship


Jerusalem’s envoy to world body Gilad Erdan accuses Tehran of carrying out attack in Gulf of Oman, says IRGC attached an explosive device to the vessel

By TOI STAFF3 March 2021, 12:23 am  0

The Israeli-owned Bahamian-flagged MV Helios Ray cargo ship docked in Dubai's Mina Rashid (Port Rashid) cruise terminal, February 28, 2021. (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP)

The Israeli-owned Bahamian-flagged MV Helios Ray cargo ship docked in Dubai’s Mina Rashid (Port Rashid) cruise terminal, February 28, 2021. (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP)

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday asked the Security Council to condemn Iran for an explosion that damaged an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman last week.

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, Gilad Erdan alleged the February 25 attack was carried out by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“The IRGC attached an explosive device to the vessel that caused severe damage forcing the ship to return to the port of Dubai to ensure the safety of the crew,” Erdan wrote.

Erdan, who is also Israel’s ambassador to the United States, noted the IRGC’s seizure of a South Korean tanker in January and a series of attacks in May 2019 on ships near the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah, which have been attributed to Iran.

“These and other repeated Iranian and Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks at sea not only jeopardize the safety and security of international shipping… but also constitute blatant and repeated violations of the United Nations Charter and of Security Council Resolutions,” he said.

The Israeli diplomat urged the Security Council to condemn Iran for violating the UN Charter and to “hold the Iranian regime responsible for this attack and for destabilizing the region.” He also stressed Israel will take “all necessary measures” to protect its citizens and sovereignty.

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan speaks at the UN in New York. (Shahar Azran/Israeli Mission to the UN)

The letter from Erdan came after Defense Minister Benny Gantz appeared to link the explosion on the MV Helios Ray and Iran’s alleged involvement to Western efforts to revive nuclear talks with Tehran.

“In recent days we saw efforts by Iran to act to improve its bargaining position in negotiations on the nuclear deal,” Gantz said Tuesday while touring a military base in southern Israel.

He added: “We’ll continue to act against any threat, together with our new and old partners, led by the United States, so Iran won’t develop nuclear capability.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was “clear” Iran was behind the explosion. Asked by Kan News 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 prime minister added that Israel has told the United States that Jerusalem will not allow Tehran to have nuclear weapons, no matter what the terms are of any potential multinational deal on the nation’s nuclear program.

A photo showing some of the damage caused to an Israeli-owned ship by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman on February 26, 2021. (Photo via Aurora Intel/Twitter)

Iran responded to Netanyahu’s statement, saying it “strongly rejects” the accusation that it was behind the attack. In a press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Netanyahu was “suffering from an obsession with Iran” and described his charges as “fear-mongering.”

Netanyahu’s comments were made in an interview pre-recorded on Sunday, before Syrian state media reported that air defense systems were activated around Damascus due to an Israeli attack that unsourced Hebrew-language reports said was a response to the blast on the ship, targeting Iranian sites.

The MV Helios Ray, a vehicle carrier, was traveling from the Saudi port of Dammam to Singapore when the blast occurred last Thursday. The crew was unharmed in the blast, but the vessel sustained two holes on its port side and two on its starboard side just above the waterline, according to American defense officials.

The incident came amid rising tension between the US and Iran over the unraveling 2015 nuclear deal. Iran has sought to pressure US President Joe Biden’s administration to bring back the sanctions relief it received under the accord with world powers, which former president Donald Trump abandoned.

On Sunday Iran rejected an offer from European states to hold informal talks with the US. Washington had accepted the offer.

Erdan also said Tuesday that he had held his first call with the new US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Erdan said in a tweet that the two had discussed “combatting climate change, racism and domestic violence, as well as working to expand the regional peace deals.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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