Israel has attacked a series of ships en route to Syria carrying Iranian oil, according to US media reports, in what appears to be a new front in the regional conflict.
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal said that since 2019, Israel has been targeting ships carrying Iranian oil and other cargo. At least a dozen ships were bombed, the newspaper added, citing US and regional officials.
Although the strikes, some of which took place in the Red Sea, damaged the vessels and forced two to return to their ports, none were reportedly destroyed.
In one incident, the newspaper said, Israeli operatives put limpet mines on an Iranian vessel carrying oil while it was anchored near Lebanon.
While Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes on Iranian forces in Syria, it has not publicly confirmed whether it also conducts operations against the regime at sea. Israeli officials typically decline to comment on reports about its military activity abroad.
It is not the first maritime dispute involving Israel and Iran in recent weeks. In February, a major oil spill from a suspected Iran-owned tanker coated the Israeli and Lebanese coast with more than a thousand tonnes of gloopy, black tar.
Israel’s environment protection minister Gila Gamliel accused Iran of being responsible for the spill in what she described as “environmental terrorism,” though this account is disputed by Israeli intelligence officials.
There is no suggestion of a link between the oil spill on the Israeli coastline and the Wall Street Journal’s reports of Israeli strikes on vessels carrying Iranian oil.
In February, Israel also blamed Iran for attacking one of its ships, the Helios Ray, in the Gulf of Oman.
“Iran is the greatest enemy of Israel. I am determined to halt it. We are hitting it in the entire region,” said Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, at the time.