Iran blames Israel, US for Saviz cargo ship attack

A spokesman for the Iranian military blamed Israel and the US for causing an explosion on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Saviz vessel in the Red Sea on Tuesday, in a statement to Sputnik news on Thursday.

“The United States undoubtedly has a hand in all attempts to undermine and harm Iran,” said the spokesman, adding that Iran was not accusing any of the Gulf states of being involved in the incident.

The spokesman warned that Iran would “without any doubt” respond to the alleged attack, but added that Iran would not take any action until an investigation into the incident is completed to uncover the circumstances of the incident.

Israel notified the US that it is responsible for Tuesday’s attack on an Iranian cargo ship affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, an American official told The New York Times.

A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that the Saviz was lightly damaged in the Red Sea off the coast of Djibouti at about 6 a.m. on Tuesday due to an explosion, adding that the cause is under investigation.

“The Saviz civilian ship was stationed in the Red Sea region and the Gulf of Aden to establish maritime security along the shipping lanes and to counter piracy,” said the spokesman. “This ship practically acted as a logistics station (technical support and logistics) of Iran in the Red Sea, and therefore the specifications and mission of this ship had previously been officially announced.”

According to the ministry, no casualties were reported.

The American official, who spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity, said that the Israelis had called the attack a retaliation for earlier Iranian strikes on Israeli vessels.

The incident comes after two strikes on Israeli vessels in the region and reports of dozens of earlier strikes carried out by Israel and Iran on each other’s maritime vessels in locations ranging from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf.

Late last month, an Iranian missile was reportedly fired at an Israeli ship between India and Oman, striking and damaging it. In February, Iran allegedly attacked the Israeli-owned cargo vessel MV Helios Ray, which was damaged by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman.

Additionally in March, The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv reported that dozens of Iranian ships had been attacked by Israel throughout the Middle East, after The Wall Street Journal reported that a dozen Iranian oil tankers headed to Syria had been attacked by Israel.

When asked about the alleged attack, Defense Minister Benny Gantz told N12 that he would not discuss “any of the operations that are taking place in the Middle East and are associated with” Israel.

The IRGC-affiliated Tasnim news reported Tuesday that the ship was damaged in an explosion caused by limpet mines on the hull of the ship.

Saudi media later speculated that the blast could have been caused by “Israeli commandos.”

The United States Naval Institute reported last year that the Saviz, while officially listed as a merchant ship, was likely a covert IRGC forward base. Tasnim confirmed this on Tuesday, saying that the ship had been stationed in the Red Sea in recent years to support Iranian commandos escorting commercial vessels.

According to the USNI, as of October 2020, the ship had barely moved from its location off the coast of Yemen for three years. The report stated that the Saviz may have been used to feed intelligence to Iran and the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen for a number of purposes, including to help them carry out strikes on maritime vessels in the area, with multiple strikes in recent years being blamed on Iran and the Houthis.

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