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Israel calls for UN action against Iran over ship attack in Arabian sea

Mercer Street tanker is now under US naval escort as Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid brands Iran an 'exporter of terrorism'
Israel Yair Lapid AFP
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, seen here on 5 July 2021, calls for UN action against Iran over attack on an Israeli-managed ship (AFP/Menahem KAHANA)

Israel's foreign minister says he has ordered the nation's diplomats to push for action from the United Nations (UN) against Iran over a deadly attack on an Israeli-managed ship off the coast of Oman.

Two crew members were killed when the Mercer Street petroleum product tanker was attacked in the northern Indian Ocean on Thursday in what the United States (US) said appeared to be a drone strike.

In a Twitter statement posted on Friday, Yair Lapid said he had asked Israeli diplomats in the US and UK to push for action in the UN.

'Iran is not just an Israeli problem, but an exporter of terrorism, destruction and instability that are hurting us all'

- Yair Lapid, Israeli Foreign Minister

"I've instructed the embassies in Washington, London, and the UN to work with their interlocutors in government and the relevant delegations in the UN headquarters in New York," he said.

Iran and Israel have traded accusations of attacking each other's vessels in recent months, and Lapid said he told British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab of the need for a tough response to the incident in which two crew members, one British and the other Romanian, were killed.

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"Iran is not just an Israeli problem, but an exporter of terrorism, destruction, and instability that are hurting us all," he explained.

"We must never remain silent in the face of Iranian terrorism, which also harms freedom of navigation."

'Shadow war'

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack, but analysts said it bore all the hallmarks of tit-for-tat exchanges in the "shadow war" between Israel and Iran, in which vessels linked to each nation have been targeted in waters around the Gulf.

The Mercer Street was travelling from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates with no cargo aboard when it was struck, its Israeli operator said.

Two crewmen killed in attack on Israeli-managed tanker off Oman
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Zodiac Maritime, owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, said the incident onboard the Mercer Street on Thursday killed one Romanian and a UK national, who was a guard for British maritime security firm Ambrey.

The US military said that early indications "clearly point" to a drone strike on the Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned tanker flying a Liberian flag.

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), an anti-piracy taskforce run by the British Royal Navy, issued a report of "a vessel being attacked" around 152 nautical miles (280 kilometres) off the coast of Oman, classing the incident as "non-piracy".

Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam state TV channel, citing "informed regional sources", said the attack was a "response to a recent Israeli attack" targeting an airport in central Syria where Iran is backing the government.

Zodiac Maritime said a US naval escort was protecting the damaged ship as it travelled to "a safe location".

The strike on the tanker comes as European powers meet with Iran in an effort to shore up a 2015 agreement to curtail the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme in exchange for lifting sanctions.

The accord was strained when in 2018 former US President Donald Trump withdrew the US unilaterally and reimposed sanctions.

Negotiations in Vienna, where the US is indirectly taking part, have stalled ahead of the August inauguration of newly elected conservative Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

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