Iran blamed as two killed in strike on Israeli-managed ship

Romanian, Brit dead * Lapid to UK FM: There’s ‘need to respond severely to attack’

An oil tanker is seen after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman (photo credit: ISNA/REUTERS)
An oil tanker is seen after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman
(photo credit: ISNA/REUTERS)

Iran struck an oil tanker with connections to Israel near Oman on Friday, killing two crew members on board. It was the first deadly attack in the continuing maritime war-between-wars and has led Jerusalem to accuse Tehran of “sowing violence and destruction.”

The two crew members killed in the attack on the Mercer Street were the Romanian captain and a British security officer. There were no other casualties.

Though owned by a Japanese company, the Mercer Street is operated by London-based Zodiac Maritime, part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group.

While Iran has not taken responsibility for the attack, according to a report by the state-owned Iranian news network al-Alam, “well-informed sources” said the attack was in response to an alleged Israeli strike  on an airport in the Quseir region of Syria last week in which two fighters were killed.

In a statement on Friday night, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he was in constant contact with his British counterpart Dominic Raab, and “noted to him the need to respond severely to the attack.”

“Iran is not just an Israeli problem, but an exporter of terrorism, destruction and instability that affects the whole world,” Lapid said. “We can never remain silent in the face of Iranian terrorism, which also harms freedom of navigation.”

Lapid also spoke with his Romanian counterpart Bogdan Aurescu, who thanked him Saturday on Twitter for his condolences over the Romanian captain’s death.

Aurescu tweeted that he hoped an investigation would swiftly establish the origin and nature of the “tragic event.” He also discussed with Lapid “concrete actions” to intensify cooperation between the two countries.

Lapid has instructed the embassies in London, Washington and New York to discuss the need for a diplomatic response with the relevant parties in the British and American governments as well as at the United Nations.



According to a senior Israeli official, the attack – which took place just days before the swearing-in of Iran’s new hardline president Ebrahim Raisi – shows “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.



“This is an Iranian terror attack that killed two innocent men, harming international shipping,” the official continued, adding that “Iran is sowing violence and destruction in every corner of the region. Out of their eagerness to attack an Israeli target, they embroiled themselves and incriminated themselves in the killing of foreign citizens.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi spoke on the phone following the strike, which is being treated as a severe terror attack.

The Mercer Street had been on its way from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates and was empty of cargo when it was attacked northeast of the Omani island of Masirah.


According to a statement released by the US Fifth Fleet in the Arabian Sea, “US forces determined through clear visual evidence that an attack had occurred” and the ship was being escorted to port by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the guided missile destroyer USS Mitscher.
“US Navy explosive experts are aboard to ensure there is no additional danger to the crew and are prepared to support an investigation into the attack. Initial indications clearly point to an unmanned aerial vehicle-style attack.”
Reports after the strike said that two explosive drones were launched toward the ship with one of them crashing into its bridge, killing the two crewmen.
Israel has been carrying out its war-between-wars against the Islamic Republic for years, though it focused on weapons convoys from Iran to Hezbollah in Syria. According to foreign reports, however, Israel began to attack ships carrying Iranian oil and weapons through the Mediterranean starting in 2019.
Several Israeli and Iranian vessels have been damaged at sea in the maritime conflict. According to foreign reports, Israel has hit tankers and ships transporting oil and weapons to Hezbollah. Several Israeli-owned vessels have also been attacked in the Indian Ocean, and although they were damaged, none sank.
The two dead crew members are the conflict’s first fatalities.
In late June, Kohavi warned that “anyone who tries to harm the State of Israel knows that any offensive enemy activity, near or far, will be answered with a significant overt or covert response. This is how we have behaved in the past, and this is how we will behave in the future.”
Tovah Lazaroff, Michael Starr and Aaron Reich contributed to this report.