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Israeli-owned ship 'attacked off UAE coast'

Israeli and pro-Iran media report that the vessel was attacked in waters near Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates
In this file photo taken on 15 January 2012, an unidentified cargo ship cruises towards the Strait of Hormuz off the shores of Khasab in Oman (AFP)

An Israeli-owned ship was attacked on Tuesday in waters near Fujairah, off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a day after Iran vowed to avenge an explosion at its Natanz nuclear facility.

Israel's Channel 12, quoting unnamed Israeli officials, blamed Iran for the attack, which it described as a missile strike.

According to the TV channel, there were no reported casualties and the incident caused a small amount of damage.

Israeli defence sources told the Haaretz newspaper that they were certain Iran was behind the attack, adding it was likely carried out by an unmanned drone or a missile strike.

Lebanese television channel Al Mayadeen reported earlier on Tuesday that the vessel was the cargo ship Hyperion Ray which is owned by the Israeli PCC company. Sources told Al Mayadeen that the ship's number is 9690559.

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According to the ship-tracking site Marine Traffic, Hyperion Ray sails under the flag of the Bahamas and was headed to Fujairah port from Kuwait.

The Lebanon-based Unews news agency, which has previously reported attacks on vessels in Gulf waters, said the ship was transporting cars and had been at Kuwait's Mina Al Ahmadi port 48 hours earlier.

Officials in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office and Israel's defence ministry declined to comment on the incident. A spokesman for Israel's transportation ministry said he was aware of the reports but could not confirm them.

There was no immediate confirmation from the UAE.

Rising Iranian-Israeli tensions

The incident comes a day after Iran accused Israel of sabotaging a key nuclear site.

In a letter to the UN General Assembly on Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Sunday's attack on the underground Natanz nuclear facility risked releasing radioactive material. 

The covert attack, he wrote, "constitutes reckless criminal nuclear terrorism".

"Considering the possible indiscriminate human and environmental consequences of this international crime, those who planned, ordered, participated and carried out this cowardly act committed a grave war crime; one that must not go unpunished," the letter said.

Tuesday's attack also comes less than a week after an Iranian ship called Saviz was targeted while sailing in the Red Sea near the Eritrean coast. 

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The New York Times quoted a US official as saying that the Saviz was damaged by an Israeli mine.

The official said the ship was damaged below the waterline and that Israel had called the attack a retaliation for earlier Iranian strikes on Israeli vessels.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's Al Arabiya TV channel and the semi-official Iranian news agency Tasnim have said the Iranian vessel was targeted by a limpet mine.

The incidents are the latest in a series of attacks on Israeli- and Iranian-owned cargo ships since late February in which the two regional rivals have accused each other of responsibility.

The attacks have occurred since US President Joe Biden took office in January with a commitment to rejoin world powers' 2015 nuclear deal with Iran - abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump in a move welcomed by Israel - if Tehran returns to full compliance with the deal.

Iran and the US last week launched indirect talks in Vienna that included the other powers on ways to revive the deal. 

Both Tehran and Washington called the talks "constructive".

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