20:06 GMT19 April 2021
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    Already hostile relations between Tehran and Tel Aviv took a turn for the worse in recent weeks amid back-and-forth claims about attacks on one another’s commercial vessels. Last week, US media reported that at least a dozen Iranian cargo ships, most of them carrying oil supplies to Syria, were targeted by Israel over a two-year period.

    The cumulative losses suffered by Iran as a result of the suspected Israeli campaign of attacks against the Islamic Republic’s commercial shipping runs into the “billions of dollars,” Haaretz reports, extrapolating on estimates of losses which would be sustained in a single attack.

    Reflecting on last week’s media reports that at least a dozen Iranian cargo ships headed for Syria have been targeted since 2019, Haaretz claims that in actuality, the number of attacks may have numbered in the “dozens,” with the sabotage carried out as part of an “all-out effort” by the Israeli Navy and its subs, missile boats, and commandos on the basis of “comprehensive” intelligence. The newspaper attributes the large number of awards recently handed out to Israeli naval personnel as one possible indication about the scale of anti-Iran naval operations.

    The Israeli newspaper bases estimates on losses in part on the average market value of an average tanker loaded with oil, which it calculates at up to $50 million. Iranian vessels are said to have been struck across multiple locations, including the Red Sea and Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

    The newspaper boasts that unlike previous offensive operations by the Israeli Navy, which have occasionally seen commandos boarding vessels and engaging in shootouts with crews, the actions against Iran’s merchant vessels have taken place “below the radar,” with no overt takeovers carried out and no outright sinkings or killings reported. Still, some of the attacks were reportedly severe enough to damage ships beyond repair and force them to be towed back to their home ports.

    Last week, Iranian investigators designated Israel as the “prime suspect” in a “terrorist act” against the Shahr-e Kord, an Iranian-flagged container ship, and accused Tel Aviv of seeking to “create unrest” in the region. Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the probe into the incident is still ongoing, and that Iran reserves the right to retaliate once the culprit or culprits are identified.

    The Iranian allegations come in the wake of Israeli claims that Iran had attacked an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars in the Gulf of Oman in late February. Iran denied any involvement in that incident, with Israel yet to present any evidence to support its charges.

    Iran is known to have sent emergency oil supplies to its Syrian allies to assist Damascus in its war against an eclectic collection of jihadists and US-backed militias. Before the war began in 2011, Syria enjoyed energy self-sufficiency and earned a modest income from exports of its oil and gas. Today, however, Damascus estimates that up to 90 percent of its oil resources are in the hands of the US and their allies, with war and pillaging costing the oil sector over $92 billion.

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