Israel defense officials want to cool covert sea war with Iran

Senior defense officials want to calm the tensions on the high seas with Iran; American sources say Israel targeted a dozen Iranian merchant ships.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Senior members of Israel’s defense establishment are recommending that Israel refrain from responding to Iranian aggression on Israeli-owned vessels on the high seas, as American officials appeared to confirm that Israel has also been attacking Iranian merchant ships, Walla News reported Sunday.

In closed discussions in recent days one Israeli source said that at a time when there is a new administration in the United States formulating policy and negotiating with Tehran over the nuclear deal, it is not right to act aggressively against Iran.

The Israeli sources said navy officials recommend avoiding a harsh response. According to security sources, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi also seeks to calm tensions, Walla reported.

“It’s time to calm down at this stage even though they [Iran] were operating in civilian space and it’s very serious,” the source told Walla, referring to the attack last month attributed to Iran against an Israel-owned vessel that was sailing in international waters in the Persian Gulf.

On Friday, Iran accused Israel of being behind the attack last week of an Iranian commercial vessel in the Mediterranean Sea that was on its way to Europe.

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In both attacks on the Israeli and Iranian ships, minor damaged was caused by small explosions and there were no injuries.

Quoting unnamed U.S. and regional officials, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel has targeted “at least a dozen vessels bound for Syria and mostly carrying Iranian oil out of concern that petroleum profits are funding extremism in the Middle East.” The report said those attacks, previously undisclosed, first started in 2019.

Israel has not yet commented on last week’s incident involving the Iranian ship. Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, however, “We are working to disrupt weapons transfers from Iran and things related to weapons and military capabilities in the air at sea and on land.”

“I’m not saying whether we did something or did not do something. We have a duty to act against it and we will continue to do it.”