DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The United States has joined the United Kingdom and Israel in accusing Iran of carrying out a deadly drone strike that killed two aboard an oil tanker off the coast of Oman.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement on Sunday in a statement.
Blinken said: “After reviewing the available information, we are convinced that Iran carried out this attack, which killed two innocent people, using one-way explosives (drones), a lethal ability that it additionally uses. in addition throughout the region.
He added that there was “no justification for this attack, which follows a pattern of attacks and other belligerent behavior.”
Iran had previously denied being involved. The Israeli prime minister directly blamed Iran and issued a veiled threat of retaliation.
Calling it an “illegal and ruthless attack,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said his country and allies were planning a coordinated response to Thursday night’s strike against the oil tanker Mercer Street. It was the first known deadly attack after years of attacks on commercial shipping in the region, linked to tensions with Iran over its tattered nuclear deal.
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Although no one claimed responsibility for the attack, Iran and its militia allies have previously used so-called “suicide” drones in attacks, which crash into targets and detonate their explosive payloads. However, Israel, the UK and the responding US Navy have yet to show physical evidence of the strike or provide intelligence information on why they blame Tehran.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett went further than Raab in his remarks on Sunday at a Cabinet meeting, making a point of looking directly at the camera and slowly warning: “We know, in any case, know how deliver the message to Iran our way. . “
The drone attack left a hole in the top of the tanker’s deck, where the captain and crew are in command of the ship, a US official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as an investigation into the attack was still ongoing. The explosion killed two crew members from the UK and Romania.
The Navy said the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher escorted Mercer Street as it made its way to a safe harbor. On Sunday, satellite tracking information from MarineTraffic.com showed the tanker had stopped off Fujairah, United Arab Emirates.
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In his statement, Raab said it was “very likely” that Iran attacked the tanker with one or more drones.
“We believe this attack was deliberate, targeted and a flagrant violation of international law by Iran,” he said. “Iran must end such attacks and ships must be allowed to navigate freely in accordance with international law.”
Earlier, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh called Iran’s alleged bombing “baseless”.
“This is not the first time that the Zionist regime occupying Jerusalem has made such empty accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Khatibzadeh said. “Wherever this regime has gone, it has taken instability, terror and violence with it.
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He added: “Whoever sows the wind will reap the whirlwind. “
Khatibzadeh spoke about an hour after the outgoing Iranian president admitted that his government sometimes “failed to tell part of the truth” to the public during his tenure.
From Jerusalem, Bennett offered his condolences to the UK and Romania for the murder of their citizens. He said Israeli intelligence had evidence linking Iran to the attack, but failed to provide it.
“Iran is the one who carried out the attack on the ship,” he said. “Iran’s aggressive behavior is dangerous not only for Israel, but harms global interests in freedom of navigation and international trade.
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Other ships linked to Israel have also been targeted in recent months amid a phantom war between the two nations, with Israeli officials accusing the Islamic Republic of being responsible for the assaults. Shipping in the region began to be targeted in the summer of 2019, about a year after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled America out of the Iran nuclear deal with world powers.
Meanwhile, Israel is suspected of carrying out a series of major attacks in Iran and against Iranian ships. In addition, Iran recently saw its largest warship sink under mysterious circumstances in the neighboring Gulf of Oman.
Mercer Street, owned by Japanese company Taihei Kaiun Co., is managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime, which is part of the Zodiac group of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer. In early July, the Liberian-flagged container ship CSAV Tyndall, once moored at Zodiac Maritime, suffered an unexplained explosion on board while in the northern Indian Ocean, according to the US Maritime Administration.
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The attack marks the first major confrontation with Iran for Bennett, who took office as prime minister in June after a coalition deal toppled longtime Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is suspected of launching a series of attacks on Iran, including explosions at the country’s main enrichment site and the murder of a prominent military nuclear scientist.
However, Bennett has also made hawkish comments in the past about the need to attack “the head of the octopus” in Tehran as opposed to regional Iranian militias like Hezbollah in Lebanon. The attack on Mercer Street is the first in his tenure as Prime Minister and analysts suggest he could seek a major attack in retaliation.
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“Israel may want to strike a resounding blow; this is the spirit of comments from political sources in Jerusalem, ”wrote Amos Harel, longtime military analyst for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “This coup will be aimed at bringing things to an end without a coup-d’etat that could escalate. But as usual, events also depend on the other side.”
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