Israeli ship attacked off the coast of Oman

July 31, 2021 - 21:45

TEHRAN – An Israeli-operated ship came under attack off the coast of Oman on Thursday night in the latest case of tit-for-tat retaliatory strikes between Israel and the Resistance Axis. 

The oil tanker, Mercer Street, which is managed by Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Maritime, was traveling from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah. The Israeli-owned UK ship was attacked by what American sources say a drone in the north of the Sea of Oman. The Israeli company said two crewmen, a British and Romanian national, died in the attack.

“With profound sadness, we understand the incident onboard the M/T Mercer Street on 29 July, 2021 has resulted in the deaths of two crew members on board,” Zodiac Maritime said in a statement on Friday afternoon, a day after the attack.

No country claimed responsibility for the attack but the Iranian news channel Al-Alam said the attack came in retaliation for an earlier Israeli strike against the al-Dhaba’a airport in the Syrian city of al-Qusayr which killed two men from the Resistance.

Citing informed sources in the Resistance, Al-Alam said the attack on Mercer Street was in response to the al-Dhaba’a strike. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, Al-Alam, citing Resistance sources, said the attack on the Israeli ship off the coast of Oman was carried out by resistance groups in response to the Tel Aviv attack on Syria's al-Dhaba’a airport. “This announcement seems to have come to confirm in practice that the axis of resistance is greater than geography, and that the front of this axis is one front, as is the front of America, Israel and the Arab backwardness, headed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, one front,” the Iranian broadcaster commented on its scoop. 

Reuters quoted Western intelligence sources as saying that the main suspect in the attack is Tehran, but the same sources stressed that governments are still seeking compelling evidence; The U.S. State Department expressed its alarm over the incident, and confirmed Washington's work with its international partners to find out the circumstances, and that it is closely monitoring the situation.

In Israel, there was no unified reaction to the attack. First, Israeli media sought to downplay the incident but as the story developed, they highlighted the Israeli allegations against Iran, though it did not claim responsibility for the attack.

An Israeli security official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Israel believes Iran was behind the attack on the ship, citing similar attacks in the past.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid put the blame on Iran for the incident. “Iran is not just an Israeli problem, but an exporter of terrorism, destruction and instability that harms us all. The world must not be silent in the face of Iranian terrorism that also harms freedom of shipping,” he claimed in a statement without providing any evidence to support his claim. 

Israeli news website Ynet said the assessment in Israel was that there were two attacks on the ship, spaced several hours apart. The first caused no damage, and the second hit the bridge, causing the casualties. It quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying “Israel will find it hard to turn a blind eye” to the attack. according to Reuters.  

Another Israeli news website DEBKAfile which is known for its close ties with Israel’s intelligence community claimed that the Israeli vessel was attacked by an “Iranian kamikaze drone,” something that took place for the first time. All previous alleged cases of Iran’s attacks on Israeli vessels involved allegations that Iran used other means to mount an attack. 

DEBKAfile reported that what happened in the Sea of Oman marked the “first direct armed drone attack on an Israeli merchant vessel.”

According to the Israeli news website, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz called an urgent conference on Friday night with Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and other senior commanders, following which Gantz announced that Israel would make an “appropriate response” to the attack.

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