Israel's Gantz says Iran could be behind blast on Israeli-owned ship

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Asked if Israel would retaliate, he repeated previous statements about his determination to prevent Iran from developing nuclear capacity and added: "We are striking at it (Iran) all over the region". "We are hitting it in the entire region".

On Sunday, Iran dismissed a European offer for an informal meeting involving the US.

Israel has blamed Iran as being behind an explosion that struck an Israeli-owned ship travelling from the Saudi port of Dammam to Singapore, in its first assessment of the incident, which took place on 25 February.

While details of the explosion remained unclear, two American defense officials told AP that the ship had sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline in the blast. The blast did not disable the ship or injure its crew, but forced it ashore for repairs.

US President Joe Biden, who took office five weeks ago, has opened the door to resuming negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme.

In 2018, 21 million barrels per day of oil flowed through the Gulf's Strait of Hormuz, equivalent to about 21% of global petroleum liquids demand at the time, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The incident recalled the summer of 2019 when the same site saw a series of suspected attacks that the United States blamed on Iran, which Tehran denied.

It remains unclear what caused the blast, but the incident comes amid sharply rising tension between the USA and Iran over its unravelling 2015 nuclear deal.

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Ray Shipping confirmed that one of its vessels carrying a "Bahamas flag" was damaged "when an explosion was heard in the Persian Gulf near the Straits of Hormuz".

Iranian officials have not commented on the attack. In a press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Netanyahu was "suffering from an obsession with Iran" and described his charges as "fear-mongering".

Haaretz and Channel 13 said in unsourced reports that Iran knew the ship was Israeli, but the ship's owner and other reports said it was unlikely.

Kan said the interview was recorded on Sunday night, before Syria accused Israel of carrying out missile strikes around southern Damascus.

The report said Israeli and USA teams were expected to arrive on the ship to investigate the explosion in the coming days. Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah have provided military support to Syrian President Bashar Assad in the more than decade-long Syrian civil war.

Iran has pinned several recent attacks inside the country on Israel, including an explosion last summer at a nuclear facility and the killing of scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the founder of Iran's military nuclear program. Iran has repeatedly vowed to avenge Fakhrizadeh's killing.

Iranian threats of retaliation have raised alarms in Israel since the signing of normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in September.

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