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Blinken vows no 'impunity' for Iran following deadly attack on Israeli-owned ship

US secretary of state renews pledge to punish Tehran for its alleged attack on an Israeli-managed tanker, saying it was 'part of a pattern of provocative behaviour'
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Monday at a UN Security Council session on maritime security (AFP/File photo)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken renewed a pledge on Monday to punish Iran for allegedly attacking an Israeli-linked tanker, saying the world cannot allow "impunity".

Speaking at a UN Security Council session on maritime security, Blinken said the attack on the MT Mercer Street was "part of a pattern of attacks and other provocative behaviour".

"These actions threaten freedom of navigation through this crucial waterway, international shipping and commerce, and the lives of people on the vessels involved."

The Mercer came under attack in the Arabian Gulf while en route from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujairah, a port and oil terminal in the United Arab Emirates.

A British security officer and the ship's Romanian captain were killed when an explosive-laden drone (UAV) crashed into the Mercer vessel off the coast of Oman.

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Last week, US Central Command released a report claiming the Mercer had come under attack three separate times from Iranian drones between 29 July and 30 July. 

The third attack blew a six diameter hole in the ship and resulted in the death of the British security officer and the ship’s Romanian captain.

According to US Central Command, drone fragments recovered from the attack "were identical to [components in] previously identified Iranian unmanned one-way attack systems", and the distance between the Iranian coast and the site of the attack was within range of the capabilities of Iranian drones.

Israel has said it provided its allies "hard evidence" that Iran was behind the attack, while Blinken initially warned of a "collective response".

On Monday, the US Secretary of State appeared to reaffirm Washington's commitment to follow through, stating: "It is on all of our nations to hold accountable those responsible. Failing to do so will only fuel their sense of impunity and embolden others inclined to disregard maritime order."

The Mercer incident is the latest in a series of attacks on Israeli- and Iranian-owned or managed cargo ships since late February, for which the two regional rivals have accused each other of responsibility, though this attack was the first in which fatalities were reported.