Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Map of the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf

The Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray vehicle carrier was hit by an explosion late Thursday night while sailing in the Gulf of Oman amid escalating tensions between the United States, Israel and Iran.

The cargo vessel and its 28 crew members — sailing under the flag of Bahamas — are safe, Tel Aviv-based Ray Shipping spokesperson Zamir Dahbash told The National Post in a text message. Likewise, the engine room was also not damaged in the explosion.

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The MV Helios Ray belongs to Ray Shipping Ltd., which is owned by Abraham Ungar, 74, one of the richest men in Israel, The Associated Press reported.

Ray Shipping confirmed that its vessel was sailing under a “Bahamas flag” and was damaged “when an explosion was heard in the Persian Gulf near the Straits of Hormuz.”

The explosion forced the vessel, en route to Singapore from Port Dammam in Saudi Arabia, to instead change course and head for the nearest port in Dubai.

The vessel reportedly arrived safely Saturday morning in Dubai.

It’s not yet clear what caused the explosions, official said. But two US defense officials told The Associated Press that the ship sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline.

Israel’s Channel 13 new team reported (without official sources) that in Israel it is believed Iran was behind the explosions. Government and other officials, however, have not yet responded to requests for comment. Nor has there been any comment from Tehran.

In the past two years Iran has been linked to attacks on shipping near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most strategic shipping lanes.

The United States blamed Iran for suspected attacks on two oil tankers in 2019.

This attack on the Israeli-owned vessel comes just a few hours after the United States launched airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias along the Syrian-Iraqi border. Those strikes were in retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month that killed one civilian contractor, as well as wounded US soldiers and other coalition troops.

“Whilst details regarding the incident remain unclear it remains a realistic possibility that the event was the result of asymmetric activity by Iranian military,” Maritime security firm Dryad Global said in its report on the incident.

JNS contributed content to this report.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.