By G9ija

The Israeli-owned container ship LORI was hit by a missile early March 25 in the Arabian Sea. The missile was reported to have been small and to have apparently caused little damage to the body of the vessel, with no injuries registered. Blame was immediately cast on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The Liberian-flagged ship had departed Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on March 21, heading for the port of Mundra on India’s west coast, when it was struck by the missile. The vessel’s owners — XT Management — decided that the LORI would stay on course, with a more extensive inspection of the damage to take place upon arrival in India.

This was the second time an Israeli-owned ship was targeted in that area in the space of a month. On Feb. 26, the Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray car carrier suffered a blast while sailing in the Gulf of Oman, forcing it to change course and head for the nearest shipyard for inspection.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of attacking the ship, but Tehran had denied any connection to the incident. At the time, Israeli security experts disagreed on whether the country should retaliate against Iran. This disagreement might be the reason why most senior Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, kept mum on the March 25 incident.

However, on March 13, Iranian media claimed Israel had been behind an attack in the Mediterranean Sea a few days earlier that damaged an Iranian container ship. This was a reference to the Shahr e Kord, which was hit by an explosive device that caused a small fire. 

In February, The Wall Street Journal reported that Israel had targeted at least 12 ships bound for Syria, most of them transporting Iranian oil, over the previous two years.

Following the March 25 attack, Israeli reactions came mostly from analysts or anonymous sources rather than in open statements from Israeli officials. Israel’s public broadcaster Kan published an assessment March 25 by an unnamed senior defense official that the IRGC had fired the missile at the LORI. Also, retired Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, the outgoing head of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, was quoted on the Israeli news site Walla as saying March 25, “Clearly, Iran has decided to retaliate against Israel over its attacks in the maritime space, with an operation that would take a toll, and that will principally send a message: Iran won’t accept that its ships are attacked, and it has the capabilities to cause Israel harm in that sphere.’’

The XT Management group, which is chaired by Udi Angel, operates many ships that depart from various ports across the globe, including from Ashdod and Haifa on Israel’s Mediterranean Sea coast and from Eilat on the Red Sea.

Rani Ungar, who owns the MV Helios Ray, also operates other ships. These also could become targets. In addition, it has been common for around three fuel containers to arrived annually in Eilat. Now, with last year’s Abraham Accords, this maritime traffic has practically doubled. While this may be helping Israel’s economy, it is also increasing Israeli maritime vulnerability.