Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz discussed the recent Iran missile attack on an Israeli-owned ship off the coast of Oman reports 0404. “The recent attack is an escalation. We must act against them now.”
The Mercer Street attack
The Liberian-flagged oil tanker Mercer Street came under attack just northeast of the Omani island of Masirah in the Arabian Sea on Thursday night. Two crewmen were killed, one of them a British security guard and the other from Romania. Teh tanker was empty at the time of the attack.
After the attack, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher escorted the Mercer Street to a safe port, the US Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet said in a statement early on Saturday.
“US Navy explosives experts are aboard to ensure there is no additional danger to the crew, and are prepared to support an investigation into the attack,” the 5th Fleet said, adding that there was “clear visual evidence that an attack had occurred…Initial indications clearly point to a (drone)-style attack.”
The attack blasted a hole through the top of the oil tanker’s bridge, where the captain and crew command the vessel, a US official said. ‘
Israeli authorities initially blamed Iran for the attack. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said Israel was privy to “evidence” proving Iran was behind the deadly tanker attack off Oman, warning his country could “send a message” in retaliation.
“The intelligence evidence for this exists and we expect the international community will make it clear to the Iranian regime that they have made a serious mistake,” he said at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. “In any case, we know how to send a message to Iran in our own way.”
British and US authorities soon joined in the accusation. Calling it a “unlawful and callous attack,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said his country and its allies planned a coordinated response. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was “no justification for this attack, which follows a pattern of attacks and other belligerent behavior.”
The ship is Japanese-owned but is run by London-based Zodiac Management, part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group.
From Dar es Salaam to Fujairah
“At the time of the incident the vessel was in the northern Indian Ocean, traveling from Dar es Salaam to Fujairah with no cargo onboard,” the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said in a statement, noting that piracy was not suspected.
Other Israel-linked ships have been targeted in recent months. In March, an Israeli-owned container ship named the LORI was in the Arabian Sea, sailing from Tanzania to India, when it was hit by a small missile. Israeli security sources believe the launch was a deliberate Iranian attack. Officials believe the attack was in retaliation for an attack on an Iranian-owned ship near the coast of Syria, which the Iranian government attributed to Israel. In February, another Israeli-owned cargo ship, a vehicle-carrier named MV Helios Ray, suffered a mysterious explosion while sailing in the Gulf of Oman.
The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Israel has targeted at least 12 ships bound for Syria, though the IDF has not confirmed or denied this report.