Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, claimed on Monday that Iran was using civilian ships as “floating terrorist bases” to transport warplanes and weapons. Gallant showcased images of six converted Iranian ships during a televised briefing at the Herzliya conference and disclosed that one of the vessels named Shahid Mahadavi had been sighted approaching the Gulf of Aden. The slide also suggested that the ship was on a long-distance voyage.
Gallant’s allegations come at a time of increasing tensions between Israel and Iran. The two countries have been trading accusations, and Israel has been carrying out attacks on Iranians in Syria, where Iranian-backed forces are present, in a bid to eliminate the possibility of Iran establishing a military presence there. Additionally, Iran has been linked to a recent covert attack on smaller oil tankers travelling in the vicinity of the United Arab Emirates.
While Gallant did not provide evidence to back his claims, Israeli intelligence has previously accused Iran of using civilian networks to move people, money, and weapons clandestinely across the Middle East. Moreover, earlier in the week, Israel intercepted four tons of ammonium nitrate in a cargo ship bound for the Gaza Strip, alleging that Hamas had intended to use it to manufacture explosives.
Iran has denied Gallant’s accusations, with a spokesperson for the Iranian mission to the United Nations suggesting that Israel’s claim was baseless propaganda. Moreover, Iran’s foreign ministry has also claimed that Israel is attempting to undermine international maritime security with its “false flag operations,” which have been carried out by Israel in the past.
The situation in the region remains fraught as Israel seeks to limit Iran’s influence and expand its own. Israel is reportedly working to improve its relations with various Arab countries and is hoping to agree to a peace treaty with the United Arab Emirates in the coming weeks. Nonetheless, Iran’s influence remains a significant challenge to Israel, and recent months have seen the country adopting an increasingly aggressive approach to counter Iran’s activities in the region.