DRAMATIC photos show how an Israeli cargo ship was ripped apart by a mystery explosion hours after Joe Biden ordered an airstrike in Syria.
The vessel was struck by an unexplained blast early Friday while sailing out of the Middle East, forcing it to head to the nearest port.
Photos show massive holes and broken pipes on the inside of the ship.
Despite the scary damage, the ship's crew was unharmed and the vessel is considered safe, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy.
The explosion has renewed concerns about ship security amid escalating tensions between the US and Iran in the area.
Biden ordered the airstrike on the Iran-backed "Guardians of Blood" militia on Thursday, in an attack that reportedly left 22 people dead.
Just hours later, the mysterious explosion occurred at the same site where a series of suspected attacks happened in 2019 that the US Navy blamed on Iran, though Tehran denied it.
Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, identified the stricken vessel as the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship.
Satellite-tracking data from website MarineTraffic.com showed the Helios Ray had been close to the Arabian Sea around 6am on Friday before it suddenly turned around and began heading back toward the Strait of Hormuz.
It was coming from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and still listed Singapore as its destination on its tracker.
According to two American defense officials, the ship had sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline in the blast.
A United Nations ship database identified the owner of the vessel as a Tel Aviv-based firm called Ray Shipping Ltd.
The US Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it was aware and monitoring the situation, the Associated Press reported.
While the circumstances of the explosion remain unclear, Dryad Global said it was very possible the blast stemmed from "asymmetric activity by Iranian military."
Tensions have escalated in the Gulf region since the US reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 after then-president Donald Trump withdrew Washington from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal.
As Iran seeks to pressure the US to lift sanctions, the country may "seek to exercise forceful diplomacy through military means," Dryad reported.
Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident.
As President Biden tries to revive nuclear negotiations with Iran, he ordered his first military operation with an airstrike in Syria in the wake of rocket attacks by fanatics on American targets in neighboring Iraq.
The US dropped seven 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) reportedly killing 22 at a crossing used by Iranian-backed militia groups to move weapons across the border.
The US appeared to be retaliating for a February 15 rocket attack on the American military base at Erbil International Airport – which was later claimed by the Guardians of Blood Brigade.
That attack, in a region run by Kurds, killed one contractor who was not American and injured numerous American contractors and an American service member.
The US has not definitively blamed any specific group for the outrage or attributed it to any Iranian proxies in the region, but the administration had made it clear where it places the blame.
"At President Biden's direction, US military forces… conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria," said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby after the strike.
Kirby said that Biden ordered the strikes at Al Bukamal after consulting with US allies, including coalition partners.
They were authorized "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel," he stated.
A little-known Shiite militant group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam, Arabic for Guardians of Blood Brigade, claimed responsibility for the February 15 attack.
A week later, a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone appeared to target the US Embassy compound, but no one was hurt.
Iran this week said it has no links to the Guardians of Blood Brigade.
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