The crew reported safely and the ship heads to the nearest port, as the circumstances of the explosion remain unclear.

An explosion has hit an Israeli ship near the strategic mouth of the Gulf, the British Maritime Trade (UKMTO) and a maritime security company said on Friday.

The crew and the ship were safe, according to the UKMTO, which is operated by the British Navy. The explosion forced the ship under the flag of the Bahamas, the MV Helios Ray, to sail to the next port.

The incident occurred at 8:40 p.m. GMT on Thursday, the UKMTO said, but did not provide details of a possible cause.

“Ships crossing the area are advised to exercise caution,” it said.

The Bahrain-based 5th Fleet of the US Navy was “aware of the situation and was monitoring it,” Commander Rebecca Rebarich told The Associated Press. She declined to comment immediately.

The British Maritime Organization gave the ship the last position off the coast of Muscat, the capital of Oman.

Maritime security firm Dryad Global said the MV Helios Ray was a vehicle carrier from Helios Ray Ltd, an Israeli company registered in the Isle of Man. The ship was en route from Dammam in Saudi Arabia to Singapore.

While the circumstances of the explosion remain unclear, Dryad Global said the explosion may have resulted from “asymmetrical activity by the Iranian military” that was “proportionate” to the increased regional tensions.

The Israeli Ministry of Transportation said it was unaware of the incident.

As Iran seeks to pressure the US to lift sanctions and return to the 2015 nuclear deal, the country could seek “vigorous diplomacy by military means,” the Dryad’s report said.

Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident.

Suspicious attacks on oil tankers

Two oil tankers were reportedly attacked near the strategic Strait of Hormuz in June 2019. An attack that set you on fire and drifted away as sailors evacuated from both ships and the U.S. Navy rushed to aid amid mounting tensions between Washington and Tehran [File: ISNA/ AP Photo]In the summer of 2019, the U.S. military blamed Iran for alleged attacks on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most strategic shipping routes, amid growing tensions between Iran and the government of former President Donald Trump.

The explosions came after the US attributed a number of confrontations to Iran in the region, including the use of limpets, magnetically attached to a ship’s hull, to attack four oil tankers outside the nearby port of Fujairah in the Emirates, and the bombing of an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia by Iranian-backed fighters.

Tensions between nations escalated after Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018 and the re-imposition of severe sanctions on Iran. In response, Iran has gradually and publicly violated the nuclear deal with the world powers in order to leverage Washington to revert to the deal. Tehran agreed to limit uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions.


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