Israeli-operated ship attacked near Oman amid Iran tensions

Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Maritime says it operates the vessel but doesn’t own it; UK military reports incident occurred on Thursday night

The Israeli-operated MERCER STREET was attacked near Oman July 29, 2021 ( screenshot)

An oil tanker operated by an Israeli company reportedly came under attack off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea, the British military said Friday, with the company later confirming the reports.

The vessel is operated by Zodiac Maritime, a London-based company belonging to Israeli tycoon Eyal Ofer.

The company said that while it operates the Liberia-flagged MERCER STREET tanker, the owner of the ship is Japanese.

Israeli officials did not immediately acknowledge the incident, but it comes amid heightened tensions between it and Iran as negotiations remain stalled over Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Other Israeli ships have been targeted in recent months amid a shadow war between the two nations, with Israeli officials blaming the Islamic Republic for the assaults.

Earlier this month, a UAE-bound vessel — previously owned by Ofer’s Zodiac Maritime — was struck in the northern Indian Ocean.

A brief initial statement from the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said an investigation was underway into the latest incident, which it described as happening late Thursday night just northeast of the Omani island of Masirah. The location is over 300 kilometers (185 miles) southeast of Oman’s capital, Muscat.

The statement did not elaborate, other than to say that it suspected the attack did not involve piracy. Earlier on Thursday, the British military group had said it was investigating another unexplained incident in the same area, but it did not elaborate.

Oman did not immediately acknowledge an attack and officials there did not respond to requests for comment. The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Mideast, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In recent months, Israel and Iran have accused each other of attacking a number of merchant ships, damaging them with explosives. The vessels in each case were only lightly damaged and there were no injuries in the incidents.

On February 26, a blast struck the Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged cargo ship, in the Gulf of Oman. Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of attacking the ship. Iran swiftly denied the charge, but experts say the attack bears hallmarks of previous attacks ascribed to Tehran.

Another Israeli-owned vessel reportedly came under missile fire in the Gulf of Oman in late March, possibly by Iranian forces.

The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Israel has targeted at least 12 ships bound for Syria, most of them transporting Iranian oil, with mines and other weapons.

Iranian media did not immediately acknowledge the attack Friday.

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