The United States and United Kingdom have blamed the Islamic Republic of Iran for an attack on an oil tanker that killed two people.
The Israeli-operated MV Mercer Street was hit by what appeared to be an explosive drone off the coast of Oman on Thursday, killing a British and a Romanian national.
It comes after months of attacks on Israeli and Iranian-run vessels in Gulf waters, the Red Sea and the eastern Mediterranean coast. In April a drone strike on an Iranian oil tanker killed three people off the Syrian coast, and last month Iran’s biggest warship, Kharg, caught fire and sank in mysterious circumstances.
This is the first time an attack on an Israeli-run ship blamed on Iran has been fatal. On Sunday the US State Department issued its own statement on the incident, in which Washington also blamed Tehran for the attack on a commercial ship.
“Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran conducted this attack... using one-way explosive UAVs, a lethal capability it is increasingly employing throughout the region,” the statement read.
“There is no justification for this attack, which follows a pattern of attacks and other belligerent behavior. These actions threaten freedom of navigation through this crucial waterway, international shipping and commerce, and the lives of those on the vessels involved.”
The State Department said it was “consulting with governments” on how to respond. It came shortly after British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab also condemned the strike, saying: “The UK condemns the unlawful and callous attack committed on a merchant vessel off the coast of Oman.
“We believe this attack was deliberate, targeted, and a clear violation of international law by Iran.”
After the blast on Thursday, the American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the guided missile destroyer USS Mitscher escorted the Mercer Street as it headed to a safe port. On Sunday, it had docked in the UAE.
Mercer Street is technically Japanese-owned and was sailing under the flag of Liberia, but it is managed by an Israeli-owned company, Zodiac Maritime.
Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapad called the attack “terrorism” on Friday and said he would be taking it to the United Nations.
The Iranian regime has publicly called the accusations “baseless”. But on Sunday’s the state-owned Islamic Republic of Iran’s Arabic-language TV channel, Al-Alam, said the attack had been carried out “response to a recent Israeli attack on Al-Dabaa airport in the Al-Qusayr region in Syria”, which killed two members of pro-Iran Shia militias.
The strike on the Mercer Street also came after a drone strike linked to Iran on the partly Israeli-owned vehicle carrier Hyperion Ray in April 2021, and an explosion on the cargo ship Helios Ray in February.
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