Iran denies Israeli accusations of tanker attack

Israel seeks international condemnation of Iran after attack on ship near Oman

Shlomi Amsalem/Government Press Office via AP - Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks at the inauguration of the Israeli embassy in Israel

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid last night discussed with his US counterpart Antony Blinken the recent attack in the Arabian Sea on a ship operated by an Israeli billionaire's company for which he blames Iran, while calling for international condemnation, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said in a statement.

Lapid discussed with Blinken "the attack on the ship in the Gulf of Oman, joint activity against Iranian terrorism and the formulation of an effective international response" against Tehran, the statement said.

According to the statement, the organisation activated diplomatic channels "in all relevant arenas" and in several countries "to promote" an "international condemnation and response" to last Thursday's attack on a tanker sailing near Oman. The ship, named "Mercer Street" and owned by Japan, is operated by Israeli Eyal Ofer's Zodiac Maritime company.

ISNA/vía REUTERS  -   Uno de los dos petroleros después de haber sido atacado en el golfo de Omán

The attack - perpetrated by a drone - killed two crew members, a Romanian and a British citizen, and Israel directly accuses Iran of committing the aggression.

In response, Israel's top diplomat also contacted his counterparts in the UK and Romania to express his condolences, and discussed "the threat posed by Iran, which is constantly harming innocent civilians".

When it was attacked on Thursday night, the vessel was in the northern Indian Ocean on its way to the United Arab Emirates.

The incident raised alarms among Israeli officials. According to media reports, senior government and defence officials met urgently to discuss the matter, and are now trying to put Western countries on alert again to denounce the extent of alleged Iranian activities in the Middle East.

Israel sees Tehran as its main enemy in the region and an existential threat. Since the outbreak of the armed conflict in Syria, it has intermittently bombed Iranian or allied militia positions supporting Bashar al-Assad's forces.

AFP/ATTA KENARE  -   Soldados iraníes en el estrecho de Ormuz

It is also fervently opposed to the 2015 multi-power nuclear deal with Tehran, which the US is considering returning to after former president Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018.

The incident appears to mark a new chapter in tensions between Israel and the Islamic Republic, following other aggressions and sabotage against ships in the Gulf over the past two years, a dynamic that has intensified in recent months. 

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Khatibzadeh, in his regular weekly press briefing, described Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid's accusations that Iran was behind the attack as "unfounded". Jatibzadeh, in the first official Iranian reaction to the attack and the Israeli government's direct accusation, said that "the illegitimate existence of the Zionist regime must stop the accusations against Iran" and stressed that "it is not the first time that the occupying regime in Quds (Jerusalem) has attributed such accusations to the Islamic Republic".