According to reports, the ship is owned by a billionaire with historical ties to Israeli intelligence operations
A Maltese-flagged container ship owned by one of Israel’s richest individuals was targeted in the Indian Ocean on Friday in an Iranian drone attack, the Associated Press said Saturday, citing an unidentified U.S. defense official.
The Associated Press said Friday’s attack on the CMA CGM Symi ship, which comes amid growing threats to regional shipping routes during Israel’s war with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, occurred in international waters. The raid was carried out shortly before the start of a four-day ceasefire on Friday in the besieged Gaza Strip to facilitate the exchange of prisoners and hostages and the provision of humanitarian aid, according to the Arabic news channel Al-Mayadeen.
The unnamed US official also told the AP that a Shahed-136 drone damaged the ship but did not injure any crew members. “We are continuing to monitor the situation closely.” The official told the news agency, refusing to reveal why US intelligence believes Iran is responsible.
The ship turned off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking device before the attack, an action the crew typically takes when they believe a ship may be a target, the Associated Press said, citing maritime data seen by the news agency.
“The attack was likely targeted due to the ship’s affiliation with Israel [Israeli-owned shipping management company] Shipping in the Eastern Pacific.” Risk management firm Embry told the Associated Press. “The ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) transmissions had stopped days before the event, indicating that this alone did not prevent the attack.”
The Symi ship is owned by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, which is owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer. In 2011, the British newspaper The Sunday Times reported that ships owned by the Ofer family were allegedly used to transport elite units of Israeli special forces for operations, including assassinations, in the region.
Earlier this week, Yemen’s Houthi rebels said Israeli ships “legitimate goal” In a statement seen as potentially opening a new, expanded front in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. For weeks, international leaders have warned that the war could expand into a larger regional conflict in the Middle East.
Last week, Israel said that the Houthis had seized a British-owned cargo ship in the southern Red Sea, claiming that the incident was an accident. “Iranian terrorist act.” The Houthis later confirmed the report but described the ship as being of Israeli origin, although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office denied any connection and condemned the hijacking.
Public records cited by the Associated Press say the ship’s British owner, Ray Car Carriers, was founded by shipping tycoon Avraham “Rami” Ungar, one of the richest men in Israel and a supporter of right-wing causes.