mercer street

The Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned Liberian-flagged tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime that was attacked off Oman coast as seen in Cape Town, South Africa, December 31, 2015 in this picture obtained from ship tracker website, Picture taken December 31, 2015. Johan Victor/Handout via REUTERS

Israel Flags ‘Hard Evidence’ That Iran Struck Mercer Street Tanker as Mideast Tensions Rise

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August 3, 2021

By Alisa Odenheimer and Verity Ratcliffe (Bloomberg) —

Israel said it had given allies “hard evidence” that Iran was behind last week’s deadly attack on a tanker in the Gulf of Oman, as the U.K. Navy on Tuesday reported another shipping “incident” in the same area of water without giving further details.

Tensions have escalated in the narrow shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf since Thursday’s drone attack on an Israeli-managed tanker. The U.S. has vowed an “appropriate response” along with its allies after two crew members — a Briton and a Romanian — were killed. Tehran has denied involvement.

“No one has any doubt who is behind the incident, but we supplied hard evidence for good measure,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said. Israel is seeking international support for a concerted response to the attack, but it “also knows how to act on its own,” he added.

Shortly after he spoke a fresh incident described as a “potential hijack” was reported in waters roughly halfway between Iran and the United Arab Emirates, the U.K. Navy’s regional monitoring service said on Tuesday. The event happened approximately 60 nautical miles east of the UAE port of Fujairah, and investigations are ongoing, the UKMTO said.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz will present proof of Iranian complicity in last week’s strike on the Mercer Street vessel on Wednesday at a meeting with ambassadors of United Nations Security Council members, Israel’s Channel 12 broadcaster reported, citing unidentified diplomatic officials.

In recent months Iran and Israel have traded multiple accusations of attacks in the major waterways for global oil shipments. The rare fatalities have come at a delicate time for Iran and world powers, who have been struggling to revive a 2015 deal to reign in Tehran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. Iran got a new president on Tuesday — hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi — adding to the uncertainty.

“We will pursue the removal of the cruel sanctions, but we won’t make people’s livelihoods dependent on it,” Raisi said in a speech on Tuesday after being sworn into office.(Updates with fresh ‘incident’ now described as attempted hijacking in fourth paragraph)

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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