Israel, US point to Iran after drone strikes Israeli-controlled tanker off Oman’s coast

Officials in Israel say Iran is responsible for a drone strike that hit an Israel-associated, Liberian-flagged oil tanker off the coast of Oman on Tuesday.

The tanker, the Pacific Zircon, sustained minor damage to its hull with no injuries or spillage of the gas oil cargo, Israeli-controlled Eastern Pacific Shipping said Wednesday, and an Israeli official said Iran was responsible.

Three maritime sources told Reuters that a drone was suspected to have attacked the tanker. An Israeli official said Iran was responsible for the attack by using a Shahed-136 drone, the type it has been supplying to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine.

Israeli officials added that they believe the attack was an attempt to distract from Iran’s recent failed assassination plot against an Israeli businessman in the country of Georgia, the Jerusalem Post reported.

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The oil tanker, Pacific Zircon, is seen at sea near the Isle of Wight, England.
(David Potter/Handout via Reuters/File)

Iranian state news placed the blame on Israel for the attack, saying that the “Hebrew-Arab axis” is attempting to create a “charged atmosphere” ahead of soccer’s World Cup that starts in Qatar on Sunday.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan condemned the Nov. 15 attack in a statement.

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Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, is one of the host venues for the 2022 World Cup.
(AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

“Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran likely conducted this attack using a UAV, a lethal capability it is increasingly employing directly and via its proxies throughout the Middle East and proliferating to Russia for use in Ukraine,” Sullivan said. “There is no justification for this attack, which is the latest in a pattern of such actions and broader destabilizing activities. This action further threatens freedom of navigation through this crucial waterway, international shipping and commerce, and the lives of those on the vessels involved.”

Eastern Pacific Shipping, which manages the vessel, said it was investigating the incident the occurred approximately 150 miles off Oman. All crew were safe and accounted for, it said.

“Preliminary reports indicate the vessel…was hit by a projectile,” said the Singapore-based firm, which is controlled by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer. “There is some minor damage to the vessel’s hull but no spillage of cargo or water ingress.”

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A drone is launched during a military exercise at an undisclosed location in Iran in this image obtained on Aug. 25, 2022.
(West Asia News Agency/Handout via Reuters/File)

In recent years, regional waters have seen attacks on tankers that have come at times of heightened regional tensions with Iran. In July 2021, a suspected drone attack hit a petroleum product tanker managed by an Israeli firm off Oman’s coast. Iran denied accusations that it was responsible.

Reuters contributed to this report.