Israel Declares Retaliation, Prepares Target Bank of Iranian Sites

Foreign Affairs

By Arie Egozi

Tel Aviv. Israel is preparing the retaliation to the attack on a cargo ship in the Gulf last week. The ship is owned by an Israeli businessman. Two crew members were killed when the Iranian armed drone hit the ship’s bridge. The damaged ship was escorted by the US navy to the nearest port. US and Israeli forces in the region are on high alert to counter any Iranian action.

Israel has declared that it will retaliate the deadly Iranian attack on an Israeli owned cargo ship last week near Oman. During the weekend consultations continued in the Israeli ministry of defense and sources said that they resulted in the preparation of a “target bank” of Iranian related sites.

According to a report in the Kuwaiti website Al-Jarida, Israel has received the green light from the United States and Britain for action against Iran. The target options are 1. Iranian port. 2. Iranian navy ship. 3. The Iranian ship from which the UAVs were launched.

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet said that Iran’s bullying is dangerous, not only for Israel, but harms global interests, freedom of shipping and international trade. “We know how to convey our message to Tehran in our own way.”

The American aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, who was recently sent to the area to help protect US military forces withdrawing from Afghanistan, has escorted the damaged ship to the port of Bahrain, where the investigations continues. The armed drones hit the ship’s bridge area that is manned all the time “proves that the aim of the attack was to kill,” an Israeli source said.

Israeli sources said that according to first findings, the Iranian used their Shahed-136 armed drone that has a range of up to 1300 miles. This was the fifth attack on a ship owned by an Israeli company. The fact that this is the first time an operation has led to casualties proves that the Iranians have gone to a higher level of aggression.

According to foreign sources an Israeli submarine is on station in the Persian gulf equipped with a “variety of very advanced weapon systems.” Israel has been in talks with the United States and Britain – and is passing on intelligence materials proving that Iran is behind the operation. During the assessment of the situation, a “target bank” was prepared for a possible action against Iran and Iranian targets in the region.

A ship operated by an Israeli-owned company was attacked on July 29 near Oman, northeast of the Omani island of Masira. The attack killed two crew members –  a Romanian citizen and a British citizen. The ship is operated by Zodiac Maritime, which is owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer. According to the company, the ship “Mercer Street” was attacked as it made its way from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to the port of Fujairah in the UAE.

In recent months there have been reports on similar attacks on cargo ships that are owned by Israeli businessmen.

Israeli sources say that all the signs are that these attacks including the last one have been performed by Iranian units using armed drones. The Iranian backed terror groups in recent weeks continued to attack U.S troops and diplomats with drones carrying explosives.

The new long range Iranian made UAV’s armed with bombs, have brought the US and Israel to discuss how to deal with this growing threat. The recent attack will result in more discussions on the issue by American and Israeli experts.

Last week, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Commander Major General Hossein Salaami announced that the country has developed UAV’s with a range of 7,000 km. “They can fly, return home, and make landing wherever they are planned to,” General Salami said at the Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences in Tehran.

Hours after General Hussein Salami boasted that his country has UAVs that could fly 7,000 kilometres and land anywhere, US attacked two targets of pro-Iranian Shiite militias on the Syrian border and Iraq. Recently, attacks against US targets blamed on Iran-backed militias in Iraq have become more sophisticated with militants using drones.

Israeli sources said that the Iranian Shahed 129 UAV has a max. range of  2,000 km with an endurance of 24.

There are no solid proof, the Israeli sources said , about the existence of an operational UAV with the 7000 km range. The sources say that since 2011, when the Iranian took control of an US RQ-170 Sentinel UAV, they have progressed in the relevant technologies by using reverse engineering techniques.

In early July, the US and Israel have begun to cooperate in order to be better ready for the increasing number of armed UAV’s and armed drones, and some types of missiles like the ones Iran is supplying to its proxies in the middle east and the Gulf region. The mutual concern has been discussed in Israel and the US in recent weeks. According to Barak Ravid, a senior reporter in the Israeli Walla news outlet, American and Israeli experts met a month ago to discuss the ways to deal with the growing threat.

In late April, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat agreed to establish an interagency working group to focus attention on the growing threat. In both Israel and the United States, there is growing concern that Iran is equipping its allies with armed UAVs, drones, cruise missiles and precision guided missiles. They also transferred knowledge on the subject to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Israel and the United States fear that pro-Iranian organizations could carry out accurate attacks using “swarms” of armed drones and UAV’s that could evade radar systems to accurately hit military targets.

On May 8, a pro-Iranian militia attacked the Ein al-Assad base in Iraq, where most of the American soldiers are in the country, with an armed UAV. There were no casualties, but buildings at the base were damaged. A similar attack took place a few days earlier. In June, the US forces at the base shot down two drones that were on their way to carry out another attack. On May 18, during Operation Guardian of the Walls  in Gaza, an armed Iranian UAV that took off from a Syrian base tried to infiltrate Israeli airspace to carry out an attack but was located and shot down by the IAF.

According to the report in the Israeli news outlet, senior Israeli officials updated on the details of the talks said that the Israeli delegation offered to take advantage of the fact that Israel was transferred a few months ago from the responsibility of the European Command in the United States Army to the Central Command sector, to begin cooperation between the United States, Israel and Arab countries. Another idea put forward by Israel in talks with the White House was to establish a “no-fly zone” in the Middle East for Iranian UAVs. The officials from the US and Israel plan more meetings of the joint team to agree on an operational plan to deal with the threat.

Israeli sources said that that Iran with the technology assistance from China, will soon become a major arms exporter of “relatively cheap ” weapon systems that will be sold to some enemies of the US and Israel. Some of the Iranian-developed missiles based on Chinese technologies were sent by Iran to Hezbollah and Gaza militant terror groups and used against Israel. For example, in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Israeli Navy SA’AR 5 corvette Hanit was hit by what was apparently an Iranian version of the Chinese C-802, which was fired from the Beirut coast; Hezbollah also fired 122mm Chinese Type-81 cluster rockets at civilian targets in northern Israel, possibly provided by Iran. In October 2016, Yemeni Houthi rebels claimed they successfully fired anti-ship missiles at an Emirati military vessel in the Bab el Mandeb Strait that was approaching the Yemeni port of Mocha. Missiles were reportedly either the Chinese made C-802 supplied by Iran or the locally made Noor.

Since then, according to Israel defense sources, Iran has stepped up its effort to manufacture new weapon systems based on Chinese technology. All signs are there that China moves fast into the Iranian defense industry with technologies and even investments.