Two crew members of an oil tanker managed by a prominent Israeli businessman’s company were killed off Oman in what appears to be a drone attack, the vessel’s London-based operator and the US military said Friday, with Israel blaming Iran. Tehran is “sowing violence and destruction”, an Israeli official said.
Israel has accused Iran of being behind an attack on an oil tanker in which two crew members – a British national and a Romanian citizen – were killed. Analysts said the attack bore all the hallmarks of tit-for-tat exchanges in the “shadow war” between Israel and Iran, in which vessels linked to each nation have been targeted in waters around the Gulf. The Israeli official warned that “our campaign against them (Iran) will continue”. The MV Mercer Street, operated by the London-based company Zodiac Maritime, was off Oman’s coast in the Arabian Sea when the incident occurred on Thursday. The company, which belongs to Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer, said it was working to establish what had happened. But Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Friday blamed “Iranian terrorism”. “Iran is not just an Israeli problem,” Mr Lapid said in a statement, adding: “The world must not be silent.” However, details of the attack on the Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned tanker remain unclear. Iran has not yet commented on the allegations.
The incident appears to be a serious escalation in tensions in the region, and some reports suggest that a drone was involved. vessels “must be allowed to navigate freely in accordance with international law”. The company added that the vessel was now “sailing under the control of her crew” and heading to a safe location with a US naval escort.