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Iran warns Israel it will 'consider all options' in response to cargo ship attack

Iranian spokesman accuses Israel of purposefully attempting to 'create unrest' in the region, hinting at plans for retribution
Iranian-flagged container ship Shahr e Kord sails in Bosphorus on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey on 9 February 2020 (Reuters/File photo)

Iran's foreign minister has warned that Tehran has the right to respond to an alleged attack on one of its cargo ships, days after an investigator announced that Israel was the likely culprit. 

Foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh, speaking at a weekly briefing on Monday, said that Iran would make the final decision of how to respond once the official investigation was completed, adding that all options were all the table. 

"That regime (Israel) finds its survival in war, crisis and chaos. Iran would consider all options when it finds out who has been involved in this operation and will resort to them to protect its legitimate rights," he said, as quoted by the Tasnim news agency. 

Iran says Israel likely behind attack on container ship in Mediterranean
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Khatibzadeh said that Iran would not compromise on issues that safeguard its national interests, adding that thus far, "the finger of blame" seems to point at Israel, particularly given the geographical location of the attack. 

"The [Israeli] regime's ferocious and aggressive nature also corroborates this," he said. 

Israeli officials have been vocally opposed to US intentions to re-negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran under the Biden administration. During his remarks on Monday, Khatibzadeh implied that Israel could have carried out such an attack in order to inflame tensions in the region. 

"Whenever the region moves toward peace, this [Israeli] regime tries to create unrest for a clear reason," he said. 

Israel has not officially commented on whether it was involved in the attack.

Escalating maritime skirmishes

The cargo ship, Shahr e Kord, was hit on Wednesday by an explosive object which caused a small fire but did not result in casualties, according to Iranian officials. 

Khatibzadeh announced on Saturday that Iran's investigation was pointing toward Israel and that it had so far confirmed the blast as a sabotage attack "in clear violation of international law". 

Iran's state-run shipping company IRISL said on Friday that it would take legal action to identify the perpetrators of the attack, which it called "terrorism" and "naval piracy".

The incident came two weeks after an Israeli-owned ship, the MV Helios Ray, was hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman.

Israel has reportedly targeted a dozen ships carrying Iranian oil
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The cause was not immediately clear, although a US defence official said the blast left holes in both sides of the vessel's hull. Israel accused Iran of being behind the explosion, a charge the Islamic republic denied.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Friday that Israel has struck at least a dozen boats heading to Syria over the past two years, mostly carrying Iranian oil.

Citing US and regional officials, the US outlet said that since 2019 Israeli weaponry had repeatedly struck Iranian vessels or boats carrying Iranian cargo en route to Syria and other areas in the region.

There was no official confirmation or denial of the WSJ's reporting. If true, it would suggest the enmity between Iran and Israel has escalated to include maritime skirmishes.

US officials told the paper that the Israeli strikes were also an attempt to stop Iran from moving cargo, including weapons.

US sanctions prohibit Iran from exporting oil, steel and other supplies in an attempt to cripple the Iranian economy, which Washington strategy alleges could push Iran into negotiating away from continued nuclear proliferation.