Two crew members of a ship operated by an Israeli-owned company were killed on Thursday when the vessel was attacked off the coast of Oman. The company, the UK-based Zodiac Maritime, said Friday that the incident was under investigation.
The ship that was targeted was a Liberian-flagged Japanese-owned tanker the Mercer Street. The crew members who were killed were identified as a British national and a Romanian national. In a statement, Zodiac Maritime described the attack as a “suspected piracy incident.”
Attacks on ships in the region are common, but this incident marks the first fatalities in years. It’s not clear at this time how the Mercer Street was attacked, but an unnamed US official told The Associated Press that it appears a “suicide drone” was involved.
Without offering any evidence, unnamed Israeli officials claimed to AP that Iran was responsible, a country the Israelis are always quick to blame. The officials added that Israel’s “campaign against [Iran] will continue.”
A report from an Arabic-language Iran-based TV network suggested the tanker attack was revenge for recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria. According to Iran’s PressTV, “informed sources” told Al-Alam TV that the incident was done in retaliation for an Israeli missile attack on Syria that killed two “resistance forces.”
Israel is constantly bombing Syria, with airstrikes reported almost every week that almost always go unanswered. Israeli airstrikes in Syria usually target Shia militias, whose fighters generally hail from Iraq. It’s possible one of the many militia groups retaliated by attacking the tanker, but at this point, nothing is confirmed.
Israel has been responsible for several attacks on Iranian ships in recent years. The Wall Street Journal reported in March that since 2019, Israel had attacked at least a dozen ships in the region. The targeted vessels were bound for Syria and were mostly Iranian or carrying Iranian oil.