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Israel passing intel to US, UK tying Iran to deadly attack on ship — report

  • July 31, 2021

Israel has been providing the United States and United Kingdom with intelligence showing Iran is responsible for a deadly drone attack against an Israeli-operated ship, in an effort to ramp up international pressure on Tehran, according to a Saturday television report.

Israel was arguing to the international community that Iran didn’t just hurt the country personally, but harmed global interests, including shipping routes, Channel 12 news reported. The Jewish state has been holding talks with the US and UK over the past day and passed on the information marking Iran as culpable, the report said.

“Iran is not just an Israeli problem, but an exporter of terrorism, destruction, and instability that are hurting us all,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Friday.

The MT Mercer Street oil tanker, managed by an Israeli billionaire, was struck on Thursday in the northern Indian Ocean, killing two crew members — one British and one Romanian national — in what American and Israeli officials said was a drone-style attack.

A senior Israeli government source said on condition of anonymity Friday evening that “Iran is sowing violence and destruction in every corner of the region. They were so eager to attack an Israeli target that they’ve embroiled themselves and incriminated themselves in the killing of foreign citizens.”

The source said that with a new hardline Iranian president set to be sworn in, “the masks are coming off and no one can pretend they don’t know the character of the Iranian regime.

“Iran isn’t just Israel’s problem, it is a global problem, and its behavior endangers free global shipping and trade. Our campaign against them will continue,” the official said.

Israeli officials told the Walla news site that the current aim is to get the US, UK and others to explicitly denounce Iran for the attack, feeling the American and British statements issued Friday were not clear enough in their condemnation.

Israel is also seeking an international investigation into the attack and for the United Nations Security Council to convene on the matter, the officials added.

As the talks with the US and UK continued on Saturday, the Israeli defense establishment reportedly met to discuss a possible military response.

In the meeting over the weekend, involving Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and military chief Aviv Kohavi, various plans to retaliate against Iran and Iranian targets in the region were prepared, according to Channel 12.

“We will choose how and when to respond,” an official told the network.

An unnamed official with knowledge of the investigation told CNN the crew had reported hearing drone noises in the area, which followed explosions and eruptions in the water.

An Israeli official cited in Hebrew-language television reports said that the Romanian fatality was the captain and the British man was a security guard. The CNN report said the two remained on the bridge to pilot the vessel amid the attack.

The source added to CNN that the crew also reported an unsuccessful drone attack earlier in the day and said the aircraft fell into the water.

On Friday, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said it was investigating a separate unexplained incident in the same area, but it did not elaborate.

Several Iranian drones slammed into the ship’s living quarters underneath the vessel’s command center, unnamed Israeli officials told the New York Times on Saturday.

The Mercer Street, an oil products tanker, was traveling from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates with no cargo aboard when it was struck, Zodiac Maritime said.

A statement from the United States military’s Central Command said on Friday that its naval forces answered a distress call after the attack. “US navy personnel are on the Mercer Street, assisting the vessel’s crew,” it said.

“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,” it added.

By Friday afternoon, Zodiac Maritime said the ship was “sailing under the control of her crew” to a safe location under the protection of a US naval escort.

The US military also said early indications “clearly point” to a drone strike on the Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned tanker flying a Liberian flag.

Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam state TV channel, citing “informed regional sources”, said the attack was a “response to a recent Israeli attack” targeting an airport in central Syria, where Iran is backing the regime.

In recent months, Israel and Iran have accused each other of attacking a number of merchant ships, damaging them with explosives. The vessels in each case were only lightly damaged and there were no injuries in the incidents.

On February 26, a blast struck the Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged cargo ship, in the Gulf of Oman. Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of attacking the ship. Iran swiftly denied the charge, but experts say the attack bears hallmarks of previous attacks ascribed to Tehran.

Another Israeli-owned vessel reportedly came under missile fire in the Gulf of Oman in late March, possibly by Iranian forces.

The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Israel has targeted at least 12 ships bound for Syria, most of them transporting Iranian oil, with mines and other weapons.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Article source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-passing-intel-to-us-uk-tying-iran-to-deadly-attack-on-ship-report/

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