July 30, 2021 4:04:38 pm
An oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire reportedly came under attack off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea, authorities said Friday, as details about the incident remained few.
The attack Thursday night targeted Liberian-flagged oil tanker Mercer Street just northeast of the Omani island of Masirah. The location is over 300 kilometres (185 miles) southeast of Oman’s capital, Muscat.
Israeli officials did not immediately acknowledge the attack, but it comes amid heightened tensions between it and Iran as negotiations remain stalled over Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Other Israel-linked ships have been targeted in recent months as well amid a shadow war between the two nations, with Israeli officials blaming the Islamic Republic for the assaults.
An brief initial statement from the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said an investigation was underway into the incident, which it described as happening late Thursday night.
The statement did not elaborate, other 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.
London-based Zodiac Management, part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, issued a statement saying the ship was the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Mercer Street and was Japanese owned. The British Defense Ministry earlier misidentified the ship’s owners.
They described the attack as “piracy”, without elaborating.
“At the time of the incident the vessel was in the northern Indian Ocean, travelling from Dar es Salaam to Fujairah with no cargo on board,” the statement said.
Satellite tracking data from MarineTraffic.com showed the vessel had been near where British officials said the attack occurred.
Oman did not acknowledge an attack and officials there did not respond to requests for comment. The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Mideast, did not respond to a request for comment.
The incident comes amid heightened tensions over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal and as negotiations over restoring the accord have stalled in Vienna. Since then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018, there have been a series of ship attacks in the region suspected to have been carried out by Tehran.
Iranian media quoted foreign reports on the attack, but did not elaborate.
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