Israel accuses Iran of using civilian ships as 'floating terror bases'

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visits Israel

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on Monday of turning commercial ships into platforms for launching missiles, drones and commandos, saying the objective was to spread Tehran's clandestine naval clout well beyond the Gulf.

The allegation by Defence Minister Yoav Gallant came as tensions between the regional foes surge afresh over Iran's nuclear drive and support for Palestinian and Lebanese militias.

Showing images of six purportedly repurposed Iranian vessels, five of them named, Gallant told the Herzliya Conference security forum that these were "floating terror bases" and that one had recently sailed toward the Gulf of Aden.

"This follows directly on the maritime terrorism Iran has been imposing on the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. It is working to expand its activity to the Indian Ocean, too, and later to the Red Sea and to the Mediterranean Sea as well," Gallant said.

There was no immediate response from Iran.

The last two years have seen Iran and Israel trade blame over a series of unclaimed attacks on their ships in the Gulf.

(Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Mark Heinrich)