DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An oil tanker associated with an Israeli billionaire was struck by a bomb-carrying drone off the coast of Oman amid heightened tensions with Iran, officials said Wednesday.
The attack on the Liberian-flagged tanker Pacific Zircon happened off the coast of Oman on Tuesday night, a Middle East-based defense official told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the attack publicly.
While no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, suspicion immediately fell on Iran.
General Michael Erik Kurilla, the head of US Central Command told the the wall street journal that Iran was behind the attack.
“This unmanned aerial vehicle attack on a civilian vessel in this critical sea strait demonstrates, once again, the destabilizing nature of Iranian malign activity in the region,” Gen. Kurilla said.
An Israeli official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss unpublished details of the attack, said it appeared Iran carried out the attack with a Shahed-explosive drone. 136. Iran has supplied these drones to Russia, which uses them to target infrastructure and civilian targets in Ukraine.
“It’s an Iranian attack, there’s consensus on that in the Israeli intelligence and defense community,” the official said.
Pictures of Pacific Zircon: pic.twitter.com/pZF4Gziq1g
— News from Faytux Δ (@Faightux) November 16, 2022
Pacific Zircon is operated by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, which is a company ultimately owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer.
In a statement, Eastern Pacific Shipping said the diesel-carrying Pacific Zircon was “hit by a projectile” some 150 miles (240 kilometers) off Oman.
“We are in communication with the vessel and there are no reports of injuries or pollution. All crew are safe and taken care of,” the company said. “There is some minor hull damage vessel but no cargo spillage or water ingress.”
Tehran and Israel have been engaged in a shadow war in the wider Middle East for years, with drone attacks targeting Israeli-associated ships traveling in the region.
The United States has also blamed Iran for a series of attacks off the United Arab Emirates in 2019. Tehran then began to step up its nuclear program after the United States unilaterally withdrew from its atomic agreement with the United States. world powers.
The Iranian government has not acknowledged the attack on the Pacific Zircon. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Oil prices edged higher as news of the attack spread, with benchmark Brent crude trading above $94 a barrel.
It was not immediately clear where the ship was on Wednesday. Tuesday night’s satellite tracking data provided by MarineTraffic.com placed the ship deep in the Arabian Sea after leaving the Omani port of Sohar.
Since the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal, non-proliferation experts have warned that the Islamic Republic now has enough enriched uranium to make at least one nuclear weapon if it so chooses, although Tehran insists that its program is peaceful.
Iran is also going after its perceived enemies abroad amid months-long domestic protests that now challenge its theocracy.
Torbjorn Soltvedt, an analyst at risk intelligence firm Verisk Maplecroft, said the attack “comes as no surprise”.
“The risk of attacks on maritime and energy infrastructure in the wider region is increasing primarily due to the lack of progress in US-Iranian nuclear diplomacy and Washington’s decision to apply more sanctions to the Iran,” he said. “Since 2019, Iran has consistently responded to new US sanctions with covert military action in the region.”
“There is not only a growing risk of disruptive attacks on energy infrastructure in the region, but also a growing risk of a broader military confrontation with more serious consequences for global energy markets,” he added.
The tanker attack also comes days before the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. While Doha enjoys good relations with Tehran, with which it shares a huge offshore natural gas field, the Israelis will attend the soccer tournament. Iran’s national team will also face Britain and the United States in first-round matches, two countries it accuses of fomenting unrest in Iran.