apparent mine attack by Israel on an Iranian military vessel in the Red Sea, the American official said.

A cargo ship owned by the same company, the Helios Ray, was attacked by Iran earlier this year.

Iranian officials also revealed more details about the Natanz attack on Tuesday, suggesting that the damage was greater than Iran previously reported.

Alireza Zakani, a member of Parliament and head of its research center, said on state television that “several thousand of our centrifuges have been completely destroyed,” representing a large portion of the country’s ability to enrich uranium.

He described official statements on Monday that the facility would be quickly repaired as false promises.

Foreign intelligence officials have said it could take many months for Iran to undo the damage.

Iranian officials have been livid about the security lapses that have allowed a series of attacks on Iran’s nuclear program over the past year, ranging from sabotage of nuclear facilities to the theft of classified documents to the assassination of Iran’s chief nuclear scientist. Most of these attacks were presumed to have been carried out by Israel.

Mr. Zakani criticized Iran’s security apparatus as lax, saying it had allowed spies to “roam free,” turning Iran into “a haven for spies.”

He said that in one incident, some nuclear equipment belonging to a major facility was sent abroad for repair and that when it returned the equipment was packed with 300 pounds of explosives. In another incident, he said, explosives were placed in a desk and smuggled inside the nuclear facility.

Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at energy development. Israel claims that Iran had and may still have an active nuclear weapons program and considers the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat.

The nuclear talks that began in Vienna last week have been delayed because a member of the European Union delegation tested positive for the coronavirus. The talks could resume as early as Thursday if the member tests negative.

Patrick Kingsley, Ronen Bergman and Steven Erlanger contributed reporting.

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Israel-Iran Sea Skirmishes Escalate as Mine Damages Iranian Military Ship

An Iranian military vessel stationed in the Red Sea was damaged by an apparent Israeli mine attack on Tuesday in an escalation of the shadowy naval skirmishing that has characterized the two adversaries’ exchanges in recent years.

The damage to the vessel, which Iranian media identified as the Saviz, came as progress was reported on the first day of talks to revive American participation in the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and major world powers. Israel, which regards Iran as its most potent foe, strongly opposes a restoration of that agreement, which was abandoned by the Trump administration three years ago.

Several Iranian news outlets showed images of flames and smoke billowing from a stricken vessel in the Red Sea, but the full extent of the damage or any casualties was unclear.

The Saviz, though technically classified as a cargo ship, was the first vessel deployed for military use that is known to have been attacked in the Israeli-Iranian skirmishes.

a regional shadow war that had previously played out by land and air.

published a report in October 2020 that asserted the Saviz was a covert military ship operated by the Revolutionary Guards. The report said uniformed men were present onboard and a boat type used by the Revolutionary Guards, with a hull similar to a Boston Whaler, was on the ship’s deck.

Iran has engaged in its own clandestine attacks. The last one was reported March 25, when an Israeli-owned container ship, the Lori, was hit by an Iranian missile in the Arabian Sea, an Israeli official said. No casualties or significant damage were reported.

The Israeli campaign is part of Israel’s effort to curb Iran’s military influence in the Middle East and stymie Iranian efforts to circumvent American sanctions on its oil industry.

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Suez Canal Ship Is Free

The mammoth cargo ship blocking one of the world’s most vital maritime arteries was wrenched from the shoreline and finally set free on Monday, raising hopes that traffic could soon resume in the Suez Canal and limit the economic fallout of the disruption.

Salvage teams, working on land and water for six days and nights, were ultimately assisted by forces more powerful than any machine rushed to the scene: the moon and the tides.

The ship was ultimately set free at around 3 p.m., according to shipping officials. Horns blared in celebration as images emerged on social media of the once stuck ship on the move.

But just as the tides rose and fell, optimism waxed and waned throughout the day on Monday as each bit of encouraging news was met with words of caution.

full-blown crisis.

Vessels packed with the world’s goods — including cars, oil, livestock and laptops — usually flow through the canal with ease, supplying much of the globe as they traverse the quickest path from Asia and the Middle East to Europe and the East Coast of the United States.

With concerns that the salvage operation could take weeks, some ships decided not to wait, turning to take the long way around the southern tip of Africa, a voyage that can add weeks to the journey and more than $26,000 a day in fuel costs.

Each bit of progress in moving the ship over the weekend was celebrated by the workers on the canal — tugboat horns blaring and shouts of joy often echoing in the desert dark.

Late Saturday, tugboat drivers sounded off in celebration of what was up to that point the most visible sign of progress since the Ever Given ran aground late Tuesday.

The 1,300-foot ship moved. It did not go far — just two degrees, or about 100 feet, according to shipping officials. But that came on top of progress from Friday, when canal officials said dredgers had managed to dig out the rear of the ship, freeing its rudder.

celebrated the moment on Twitter, writing that “Egyptians have succeeded today in ending the crisis of the stuck ship in the Suez Canal despite the great complexities surrounding this situation in every aspect.”

Egyptian national television started broadcasting live coverage of the salvage operation, a signal of the government’s confidence that the situation would soon be resolved.

Teams of engineers and experts were still huddling on the banks of the canal, going over the intricate details of the sprawling salvage effort.

The company that oversees the ship’s operations and crew, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said 11 tugboats had helped, with two joining the struggle on Sunday. Several dredgers, including a specialized suction dredger that can extract 2,000 cubic meters of material per hour, dug around the vessel’s bow, the company said.

With the Ever Given sagging in the middle, its bow and stern both caught in positions for which they were not designed, the hull had been vulnerable to stress and cracks, according to experts. Just as every high tide brought hope the ship could be released, each low tide put new stresses on the vessel.

Teams of divers inspected the hull throughout the operation and found no damage, officials said. The ship was to be inspected again after it was freed.

The plan is to tow the ship to the Great Bitter Lake, located along the canal’s route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, so traffic could once gain flow smoothly.

However, it would take some time to also inspect the canal itself to ensure safe passage. And with hundreds of ships backed up on either side, it could be days before operations return to normal.

Thomas Erdbrink contributed reporting.

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Syria Says it Will Ration Fuel as Economic Toll of Suez Canal Blockage Grows

The government of Syria has said that it will begin rationing the use of fuel after the closure of the Suez Canal delayed the delivery of a critical shipment of oil to the war-torn nation.

With the log of ships now stuck outside the canal growing to over 300 on Sunday, the threat to the oil supply in Syria was an early indication of the rapidly expanding and escalating ripple effects caused by the disruption of trade through the vital maritime artery.

Already, shipping analysts estimated, the colossal traffic jam was holding up nearly $10 billion in trade every day.

“All global retail trade moves in containers, or 90 percent of it,” said Alan Murphy, the founder of Sea-Intelligence, a maritime data and analysis firm. “Name any brand name, and they will be stuck on one of those vessels.”

the ministry said in a statement, “in order to guarantee the continued supply of basic services to Syrians such as bakeries, hospitals, water stations, communication centers, and other vital institutions.”

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With the Suez Canal Blocked, Shippers Go Around Africa

As the world absorbed the reality that the Suez Canal will almost certainly remain blocked for at least several more days, hundreds of ships stuck at both ends of the channel on Friday began contemplating a far more expensive alternative: forsaking the channel and heading the long way around Africa.

A journey from the Suez Canal in Egypt to Rotterdam, in the Netherlands — Europe’s largest port — typically takes about 11 days. Venturing south around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope adds at least 26 more days, according to Refinitiv, the financial data company.

The additional fuel charges for the journey generally run more than $30,000 per day, depending on the vessel, or more than $800,000 total for the longer trip. But the other option is sitting at the entrance of the canal and waiting for the mother of all floating traffic jams to dissipate, while incurring so-called demurrage charges — late fees for cargo — that range from $15,000 to $30,000 per day.

“You are either stuck with the commodity and waiting for things to evolve, or you take the cost and you move your commodity, and you free up your ship,” said Amrit Singh, lead shipping analyst at Refinitiv in London. “People have started making decisions.”

surge of orders spurred by the pandemic.

A world whose initial experience with the coronavirus featured the hoarding of toilet paper now braces for fresh shortages of that vital commodity. Like many consumer goods, paper products are transported through the Suez Canal in giant shipping containers.

More than 200 ships are now stuck at either end of the Suez Canal, with no clarity on when they will be able to continue their journeys. Some 80 additional ships are scheduled to arrive over the next three days, Mr. Singh said.

For ships that had been on their way to Europe from Asia and are stuck at the southern end of the canal, the route around Africa involves crossing through an area off Somalia that is rife with piracy. Some ships are carrying security teams that enable them to pass through the piracy zone. Those that lack guards must detour around it, adding three more days to their journeys.

Crews may be unfamiliar with the waters around Africa’s southern tip, where the convergence of warm and cool currents produces turbulent and unpredictable conditions. Early Portuguese navigators called this region “the cape of storms.”

These are the sorts of factors that shipping companies are now considering.

“It is like choosing the queue at the post office,” said Alex Booth, head of research at Kpler. “It is never the right decision.”

Already, seven giant carriers of liquefied natural gas appear to have decided to change course away from the canal, according to Kpler.

One of these ships, chartered by Royal Dutch Shell, had picked up a cargo of gas at Sabine Pass in Texas and was heading toward the canal when it made a sharp turn in the Atlantic Ocean toward Africa. Another, operated by Qatargas, a state energy company, and loaded at Ras Laffan, the Qatar energy hub, was headed for Suez but then veered away toward the Cape of Good Hope before reaching the Red Sea.

Container ships are also changing their plans. HMM, a South Korean shipping company, ordered one of its vessels that was headed to Asia from Britain via the canal to go around Africa instead, according to NOH Ji-hwan, a spokesman for the company.

Mr. Booth said a ship that was already waiting at the canal would be unlikely to backtrack all the way around Africa. That would mean a nearly six-week journey to reach Amsterdam compared with just 13 days from the canal.

If the call is made in the early part of a journey, though, it may make sense. For instance, Kpler estimates that a trip around the cape from the Saudi oil terminal Ras Tanura would require 39 days, versus 24 days by way of Suez.

Ultimately, the decision hinges on an assessment of the time required for engineers to extract the Ever Given, allowing traffic to resume. The most optimistic outlook took a hit on Friday, with the failure of the latest effort to get the enormous ship floating.

“People are saying that something will be done by Sunday,” said Mr. Singh of Refinitiv. “But I have my little doubts. The tide and nautical conditions are more favorable toward the middle of next week.”

Vivian Yee and Su-Hyun Lee contributed reporting.

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Israel’s Shadow War With Iran Moves Out to Sea

JERUSALEM — The sun was rising on the Mediterranean one recent morning when the crew of an Iranian cargo ship heard an explosion. The ship, the Shahr e Kord, was about 50 miles off the coast of Israel, and from the bridge they saw a plume of smoke rising from one of the hundreds of containers stacked on deck.

The state-run Iranian shipping company said the vessel had been heading to Spain and called the explosion a “terrorist act.”

But the attack on the Shahr e Kord this month was just one of the latest salvos in a long-running covert conflict between Israel and Iran. An Israeli official said the attack was retaliation for an Iranian assault on an Israeli cargo ship last month.

Since 2019, Israel has been attacking ships carrying Iranian oil and weapons through the eastern Mediterranean and Red Seas, opening a new maritime front in a regional shadow war that had previously played out by land and in the air.

Iranian efforts to circumvent American sanctions on its oil industry.

But the conflict’s expansion risks the escalation of what has been a relatively limited tit-for-tat, and it further complicates efforts by the Biden administration to persuade Iran to reintroduce limits on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

“This is a full-fledged cold war that risks turning hot with a single mistake,” said Ali Vaez, Iran program director at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based research organization. “We’re still in an escalatory spiral that risks getting out of control.”

Since 2019, Israeli commandos have attacked at least 10 ships carrying Iranian cargo, according to an American official and a former senior Israeli official. The real number of targeted ships may be higher than 20, according to an Iranian Oil Ministry official, an adviser to the ministry and an oil trader.

first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Most of the ships were carrying fuel from Iran to its ally Syria, and two carried military equipment, according to an American official and two senior Israeli officials. An American official and an Israeli official said the Shahr e Kord was carrying military equipment toward Syria.

The Israeli government declined to comment.

has accelerated in recent years. Iran has been arming and financing militias throughout the region, notably in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Gaza and Lebanon, where it supports Hezbollah, a Shiite militia and political movement that is a longtime enemy of Israel.

Israel has tried to counter Iran’s power play by launching regular airstrikes on Iranian shipments by land and air of arms and other cargo to Syria and Lebanon. Those attacks have made those routes riskier and shifted at least some of the weapons transit, and the conflict, to the sea, analysts said.

Israel has also sought to undermine Iran’s nuclear program through assassinations and sabotage on Iranian soil, and both sides are accused of cyberattacks, including a failed Iranian attack on an Israeli municipal water system last April and a retaliatory Israeli strike on a major Iranian port.

Iran’s Quds force was blamed for a bomb that exploded near Israel’s embassy in New Delhi in January. And 15 militants linked to Iran were arrested last month in Ethiopia for plotting to attack Israeli, American and Emirati targets.

The sum is an undeclared conflict that neither side wants to escalate into frontal combat.

a major Iranian nuclear site in July and the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist last November. Israel has not publicly acknowledged either operation.

The Israeli offensive against Iranian shipping has two goals, analysts and officials said. The first is to prevent Tehran from sending equipment to Lebanon to help Hezbollah build a precision missile program, which Israel considers a strategic threat.

The second is to dry up an important source of oil revenue for Tehran, building on the pressure American sanctions have inflicted. After the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s fuel industry in late 2018, the Iranian government became more reliant on clandestine shipping.

Sima Shine, a former head of research at Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.

The attacks typically feature limpet mines and sometimes torpedoes, the American official said. They generally target the ships’ engines or propellers, one Israeli official said. And they are intended to cripple but not sink the ships, the American and Israeli officials said.

a recent oil spill that left tons of tar on the beaches of Israel and Lebanon.

Within Israel, there is concern among maritime experts that the cost of a sea war may exceed its benefit.

While the Israeli Navy can make its presence felt in the Mediterranean and Red Seas, it is less effective in waters closer to Iran. And that could make Israeli-owned ships more vulnerable to Iranian attacks as they pass Iran’s western shores on their way to ports in the Gulf, said Shaul Chorev, a retired Israeli admiral who now heads the Maritime Policy and Strategy Research Center at the University of Haifa.

“Israeli strategic interests in the Persian Gulf and related waterways will undoubtedly grow,” he wrote in a statement, “and the Israeli Navy does not have the capabilities to protect these interests.”

Patrick Kingsley reported from Jerusalem, Ronen Bergman from Tel Aviv, Farnaz Fassihi from New York, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

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What to Know About the Suez Canal — and How a Ship Got Stuck There

The 120-mile-long artificial waterway known as the Suez Canal has been a potential flash point for geopolitical conflict since it opened in 1869. Now the canal, a vital international shipping passage, is in the news for a different reason: A quarter-mile-long, Japanese-owned container ship en route from China to Europe has been grounded in the canal for days, blocking more than 100 vessels and sending tremors through the world of maritime commerce.

Here are some basics on the history of the canal, how it operates, how the vessel got stuck and what it means.

The canal is in Egypt, connecting Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean via the southern Egyptian city of Suez on the Red Sea. The passage enables more direct shipping between Europe and Asia, eliminating the need to circumnavigate Africa and cutting voyage times by days or weeks.

a description of the canal by GlobalSecurity.org.

estimated 1.5 million workers.

According to the Suez Canal Authority, the Egyptian government agency that operates the waterway, 20,000 peasants were drafted every 10 months to help construct the project with “excruciating and poorly compensated labor.” Many workers died of cholera and other diseases.

Political tumult in Egypt against the colonial powers of Britain and France slowed progress on the canal, and the final cost was roughly double the initial $50 million projected.

The British powers that controlled the canal through the first two world wars withdrew forces there in 1956 after years of negotiations with Egypt, effectively relinquishing authority to the Egyptian government led by President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

first-ever peacekeeping force to the area. The outcome was seen as a triumph for Egyptian nationalism, but its legacy was an undercurrent in the Cold War.

The Suez crisis was also a theme in Season 2, Episode 1 of “The Crown,” the acclaimed Netflix series about Britain’s royals, as the British prime minister at the time, Anthony Eden, struggled over how to respond.

Egypt closed the canal for nearly a decade after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, when the waterway was basically a front line between Israeli and Egyptian military forces. Fourteen cargo ships, which became known as the “Yellow Fleet,” were trapped in the canal until it was reopened in 1975 by Mr. Nasser’s successor, Anwar el-Sadat.

A few accidental groundings of vessels have closed the canal since then. The most notable, until this week, was a three-day shutdown in 2004 when a Russian oil tanker ran aground.

Evergreen Shipping line, is one of the world’s largest container ships, about the length of the Empire State Building.

Although the canal was originally engineered to handle much smaller vessels, its channels have been widened and deepened several times, most recently six years ago at a cost of more than $8 billion.

Poor visibility and high winds, which made the Ever Given’s stacked containers act like sails, are believed to have pushed it off course and led to its grounding.

Salvagers have tried a number of remedies: pulling it with tugboats, dredging underneath the hull and using a front-end loader to excavate the eastern embankment, where the bow is stuck. But the vessel’s size and weight, 200,000 metric tons, had frustrated salvagers as of Thursday night.

Some marine salvage experts have said nature might succeed where tugs and dredgers have failed. A seasonal high tide on Sunday or Monday could add roughly 18 inches of depth to the canal, perhaps floating the ship.

That depends on how long the canal, which is believed to handle about 10 percent of global maritime commercial traffic, is closed. TradeWinds, a maritime industry news publication, said that with more than 100 ships waiting to traverse the canal, it could take more than a week just for that backlog to clear.

A prolonged closure could be hugely expensive for the owners of ships waiting to transit the canal. Some may decide to cut their losses and reroute their vessels around Africa.

$5.61 billion in revenue from canal tolls in 2020, also has a vital interest in refloating the Ever Given and reopening the waterway.

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Giant Ship Blocking Suez Canal Could Take ‘Days, Even Weeks’ to Free

CAIRO — As tugboats strained against the weight of the mammoth ship and dredgers worked to clear sand and mud, a salvage company working on the operation warned on Thursday that releasing the container vessel blocking traffic in the Suez Canal could take days or even weeks.

Dozens of ships laden with oil and goods destined for ports around the world are stranded in the canal, and with each passing hour, the economic cost of the disruption grows more consequential.

The stuck ship, the Ever Given, has been wedged in the canal since running aground amid the heavy winds of a sandstorm on Tuesday. Its bow is lodged in the canal’s eastern bank and its stern in the western bank.

Eight large tugboats were attempting to push and drag the ship from its unintended berth, the Suez Canal Authority said in a statement on Thursday, but at about 1,300 feet long — roughly equivalent to the height of the Empire State Building — and weighing around 200,000 metric tons, dislodging the Ever Given is proving challenging.

told the Dutch current affairs program Nieuwsuur on Wednesday that the operation to free the ship could take “days, even weeks.”

Mr. Berdowski, whose company has been involved in expanding the Suez Canal, said that Ever Given was stuck on both shallow sides of the V-shaped waterway. Fully loaded with 20,000 containers, the ship “is a very heavy beached whale,” he said.

stuck in the Elbe River in 2016, near the port of Hamburg, Germany. Salvaging that ship took 12 tugboats and three attempts, and part of the sandbank where the ship ran aground had to be dredged.

Mr. Berdowski said that the Ever Given was too heavy for tugboats alone, adding that salvagers might need to extract fuel, pump out water from the ballast tanks and remove some of the containers to make the ship lighter and therefore easier to move. And the dredging may require extra equipment, he said.

battered by the surge in orders caused by the coronavirus pandemic and recent disruptions at factories in Japan and Texas — waited to see whether the disruption from the traffic jam would amount to a couple of days’ minor inconvenience, or something worse.

heralded as a historic national accomplishment. But the Ever Given is sitting diagonally across another section of the canal, one that has only one lane.

The head of the Suez Canal Authority, Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, said in a statement on Thursday that the day before, 13 ships had been expected to be able to move through the canal after the Ever Given was tugged out of the way. But the salvage operation was taking longer than hoped, forcing the ships to drop anchor in a waiting area, the authority noted in the statement.

Nada Rashwan contributed reporting from Cairo, and Thomas Erdbrink from Amsterdam.

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Suez Canal Blocked After Container Ship Gets Stuck

CAIRO — An enormous container ship became stuck while traversing the Suez Canal late Tuesday, blocking traffic through one of the world’s most important shipping arteries and threatening to add one more burden to a global shipping industry already battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The ship, which was heading from China to the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, ran aground amid poor visibility and high winds from a sandstorm that struck much of northern Egypt this week, according to George Safwat, a spokesman for the authority that oversees the canal. The storm caused an “inability to direct the ship,” he said in a statement.

By Wednesday morning, more than 100 ships were stuck at each end of the canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and carries roughly 10 percent of worldwide shipping traffic.

Dozens of tugboats raced to try and wrench it free as crews on the land brought heavy equipment to dig out the land where it sat wedged.

posted on Tuesday evening. “Looks like we might be here for a little bit …”

The Suez Canal is a key artery for oil flows from the Persian Gulf region to Europe and North America. Roughly 5 percent of globally traded crude oil and 10 percent of refined petroleum products passed through the canal before the pandemic, estimated David Fyfe, chief economist at Argus Media, a market research firm.

After the canal was snarled, there was a 2.85 percent jump in the price of Brent crude, the international benchmark, on Wednesday to $62.52 a barrel.

But Mr. Fyfe said that because the demand for oil remained relatively weak amid the pandemic, a short-term outage is unlikely to have a lasting impact on the market.

“I don’t think this is going to fundamentally change market sentiment,” he said. “A lot will depend on how quickly they can get the vessel cleared.”

Vivian Yee reported from Cairo, and Peter S. Goodman from London. Nada Rashwan contributed reporting from Cairo, and Stanley Reed from London.

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