Pressure Grows On Iran As Israel Mulls Response To Tanker Attack

Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid at the Israeli parliament during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on August 2 2021 (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

(JNS) — Pressure on Iran is growing over a deadly drone attack on a commercial oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman on July 29, as observers in Israel debate what the optimal Israeli response should be.

During a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet said the attack served as a reminder of Iranian aggression, stating that this time, the aggression occurred “on the high seas. The Iranians, who attacked the ship Mercer Street with unmanned aerial vehicles, intended to attack an Israeli target.”

“Iran, in a cowardly manner, is trying to evade responsibility for the event. They are denying this. Then, I determine, with absolute certainty—Iran carried out the attack against the ship. … ,” he warned. “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. In any case, we know how to send a message to Iran
in our own way.”

Reports of the attack surfaced on July 30, when multiple Iranian drones reportedly slammed into the Japanese-owned tanker, which is managed by British company Zodiac Maritime, killing a British and a Romanian national.

The ship’s British management company is owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer, who is based in London.

Earlier in July, a commercial vessel that was once owned by Ofer’s company was targeted by Iran in the Indian Ocean, as part of a longer-standing shadow war in which the Iranians have been targeting civilian commercial vessels they believe are linked to Israeli business assets.

According to international media reports, Israel in the past has targeted Iranian ships in a non-lethal manner that were illegally carrying oil to the Syrian regime run by Bashar Assad as part of a Hezbollah financing scheme, in which Syria repaid its oil debts by transferring cash to the Lebanese terror organization.

In response, Iran had targeted commercial vessels, but the Islamic Republic may have also begun using the “sea shadow war” to settle other scores.

According to a report aired by the Arabic-language Iranian state TV Al-Alam, the attack on the ship was retaliation for a recent Israeli strike on Al-Dabaa Airport in Al-Qusayr, Syria—a site that has been linked to Iran’s precision-guided missile program.