A suspected Iranian drone struck an Israeli-owned oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Tuesday night, leaving a hole in the vessel but causing no injuries or deaths, US military officials said.
Officials said the 600-foot Pacific Zircon collided with a drone while passing through the Gulf of Oman. The impact left a hole in the stern of the ship, but the ship was inoperable, they added.
Pacific Zircon is owned by East Pacific Shipping, a Singaporean company founded by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer.
The company’s chief executive, Cyril Ducau, told The Wall Street Journal that the crew was safe and the ship suffered only minor damage. The company said the attack did not cause an oil spill and that the vessel was still afloat.
The US military condemned the attack as another sign of Iran’s threat to the Middle East.
“The drone strike against civilian shipping in this critical strait once again demonstrates the destabilizing nature of Iran’s malign activities in the region,” said General Michael Eric Kurilla, head of US Central Command. American military operations in the Middle East.
President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, condemned the attack and said the United States was confident that Iran would strike.
Mr Sullivan said: “This attack, which is the latest in a pattern of similar actions and wider destabilization efforts, is inexcusable.” “We will work with partners and allies to hold Iran accountable and respond through appropriate means.”
One Israeli official said the drone used in Tuesday’s attack was the Shahed-136, an Iranian drone used by Russia in a series of attacks in Ukraine.
Western officials say Iran used Shahed-136 drones to carry out a similar attack on another Israeli tanker in the same area last year. U.S. officials said they did not yet know what drone was used in the Pacific Zircon.
The attack comes amid heightened concerns about Iran’s military threat to the region as Tehran grapples with long-running protests in the country that have undermined the government’s grip on power.
Tehran has launched a series of drone and missile strikes on Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and has openly threatened Saudi Arabia, which it accuses of fomenting protests in Iran.
Last year, the US accused Iran of carrying out a drone attack on an Israeli oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman that killed two crew members. Western officials say Iran used Shahed-136 drones to shoot down the Mercer Street tanker. Iran has denied any involvement in the attack.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia and the US shared intelligence that Iran was preparing to attack economic targets in the kingdom, although officials said the threat was immediately defused after the magazine reported the warnings.
Iran is under increasing pressure at home and abroad over its response to two months of protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who died under the watch of the morality police in protest against laws requiring women to cover their hair.
Israel and Iran have been engaged in a years-long shadow war in the Middle East. Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria as part of a campaign to thwart Tehran’s attempts to expand its military influence in the region.
Iran has also accused Israel of using mines to target an Iranian ship in the Red Sea last year.
Israel recently struck a suspected Iranian weapons convoy along the Iraq-Syria border, killing at least 10 people, according to people familiar with the attack.
— Gordon Lubold in Washington contributed to this article.
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