Drone strike hits ship linked to Israel off India's coast: Maritime agencies

AFP , Ahram Online , Saturday 23 Dec 2023

An Israel-affiliated merchant vessel in the Arabian Sea off India’s west coast was struck by an unmanned aerial vehicle, causing a fire, two maritime agencies said.

File Photo: The incident follows drone and missile attacks in the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthis amid the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Photo: AP


Ambrey, a maritime security firm, said the "Liberia-flagged chemical/products tanker... was Israel-affiliated" and had been on its way from Saudi Arabia to India.

The attack caused a fire on board, according to the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, or UKMTO.

The fire on the Liberian-flagged chemical products tanker was extinguished without crew casualties in the incident, it said, according to Reuters.

“Some structural damage was also reported and some water was taken onboard. The vessel was Israel-affiliated. She had last called Saudi Arabia and was destined for India at the time,” Ambrey said on its website.

Both agencies said the attack occurred 200 nautical miles southwest of Veraval, India.

UKMTO said the "authorities were investigating", and noted the fire had been extinguished. Ambrey said the Indian navy was responding.

There was no immediate claim of responsiblity for the strike which came amid a flurry of drone and missile attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels on a vital shipping lane in the Red Sea.

Last month, an Israeli-owned cargo ship was hit in a suspected drone attack by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Indian Ocean, according to a US official.

The Malta-flagged vessel managed by an Israeli-affiliated company was reportedly damaged when the unmanned aerial vehicle exploded close to it, according to Ambrey.

The attacks on shipping since the start of the Israel geocidal war on Gaza on October 7 have prompted major firms to reroute their cargo vessels around the southern tip of Africa, despite the higher fuel costs of much longer voyages.

The Houthi rebels have launched more than 100 drone and missile attacks, targeting 10 merchant vessels, linked to Israel, and involving more than 35 different countries, according to the Pentagon.

The United States on Friday accused Iran of close involvement in attacks on commercial ships by Yemen’s Houthis, alleging Tehran has provided drones, missiles and tactical intelligence.

Despite the presumed findings presented by the White House, there have been doubts among  US and allied policymakers on whether the Houthis are acting at the behest of Iran.

One diplomat from a US ally who follows the region noted that Lebanon's Hezbollah -- which has much closer ties with Iran -- has been comparatively restrained in the face of US warnings including a show of naval might in the Eastern Mediterranean.

"Of Iran's proxies in the region, the Houthis have the weakest link to Tehran. And it is hard to see how the attacks serve their or Iran's interests," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

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