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Netanyahu says Israel is attacking Iran for its attack on Israeli ship

The Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) and U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conduct test of ballistic missile target with the Arrow-3 interceptor. (U.S. Missile Defense Agency/Released)
March 01, 2021

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for an attack on an Israeli-owned cargo ship last week and said Israel is striking back at Iranian targets throughout the region.

On Thursday, the Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray suffered a series of blasts to its hull, forcing it to pull into a Dubai port for repairs. In comments reported by The Associated Press, Netanyahu said Israel was already striking back against Iran for the attack.

Netanyahu said the attack “was indeed an act by Iran, that is clear,” adding, “Iran is Israel’s greatest enemy, I’m determined to block it, we’re striking at it throughout the region.”

Netanyahu did not specify how Israel was striking back in his remarks Monday, but his comments did come after Syrian state media said Syrian air defenses intercepted Israeli missiles directed at Damascus on Sunday night. The missiles reportedly targeted an area where Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) troops and Iran-backed militia fighters are believed to be located.

Syrian state media reported the Syrian air defense systems intercepted most of the Israeli missiles and there were no indications of casualties from the missile attacks.

The Israeli Army did not confirm its involvement in any missile launches towards Syria, according to the Daily Mail.

Israel has launched numerous strikes in Syria’s direction in recent months. In a Friday news briefing, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel was taking various actions on an “almost weekly” basis to harass Iranian forces in Syria, which have been fighting in support of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad.

The suspected Israeli missile attacks on Syria on Sunday also come just days after President Joe Biden ordered his own series of airstrikes in Syria, the first of his presidency. The U.S. airstrikes were also directed at Iran-backed militia groups in Syria, such as the Kataeb Hezbollah.

On Monday, Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh denied Israel’s accusations that Iran carried out the attack on the cargo freighter, the Associated Press reported. Khatibzadeh said Iran “strongly rejected” the accusation and said Netanyahu was “suffering from an obsession with Iran and was engaging in “fear-mongering.”

Khatibzadeh further accused Israel of taking “suspicious actions” throughout the Middle East to undermine the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). President Donald Trump left the JCPOA in 2018 and Iran has since abandoned many of its commitments to limit nuclear development under the deal. Khatibzadeh did not say what action Israel had taken to undermine the deal, but said Iran would respond.

“Israel knows very well that our response in the field of national security has always been fierce and accurate,” he said.