According to sources, the vessel is owned by a billionaire with longstanding ties to Israeli intelligence activities.
The Associated Press (AP) reported on Saturday that a Maltese-flagged container ship owned by one of Israel’s wealthiest men was targeted in the Indian Ocean on Friday in a suspected Iranian drone attack, citing an anonymous US defense official.
The attack on the CMA CGM Symi on Friday occurred in international seas, according to the Associated Press, and comes amid rising threats to regional shipping lines during Israel’s fight with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
According to the Arab news channel Al-Mayadeen, the strike was carried out shortly before the commencement of the four-day ceasefire in the beleaguered Gaza enclave to permit a prisoner-hostage exchange and the flow of humanitarian aid.
According to an unidentified US official, a suspected Shahed-136 drone damaged the ship but did not injure any of the crew. “We continue to monitor the situation closely,” the official told the news agency, declining to elaborate on why US intelligence believes Iran is to blame.
The ship had turned off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracker before of the attack, according to AP, citing nautical data accessed by the news agency – a standard move taken by personnel when they suspect a vessel is a target.
“The attack is likely to have been targeted due to the vessel’s Israeli affiliation through [Israeli-owned shipping management company] Eastern Pacific Shipping,” risk management company Ambrey told AP. “The vessel’s AIS transmissions were off days prior to the event, indicating this alone does not prevent an attack.”
The Symi is owned by the Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, which is controlled by Israeli millionaire Idan Ofer.
The UK daily The Sunday Times reported in 2011 that ships owned by the Ofer family were allegedly used to carry elite Israeli special forces troops to undertake operations in the region, including assassinations.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels warned earlier this week that Israeli ships are a “legitimate target,” potentially establishing a new, extended front in the Israel-Hamas confrontation. For weeks, world leaders have warned that the conflict might escalate into a bigger regional conflict in the Middle East.
Last week, Israel claimed that the Houthis had hijacked a British-owned cargo ship in the southern Red Sea, calling the incident a “Iranian act of terrorism.”
The Houthis later confirmed the report, but described the vessel as Israeli in origin, though the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied any connection while condemning the hijacking.
According to public records quoted by the Associated Press, the vessel’s British owner, Ray Car Carriers, was organized by shipping mogul Abraham ‘Rami’ Ungar, one of Israel’s richest men and a backer of right-wing causes.