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Israeli-owned tanker hit by drone off Oman coast

No group or country have taken responsibility for the drone attack last night against the Pacific Zircon, but the Israeli security system suspects Iran was behind the hit.
IRNA/AFP via Getty Images

An oil tanker partly owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer was struck last night by a bomb-carrying drone off the coast of Oman. An unnamed official from the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a British military organization monitoring shipping in the region, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "We are aware of an incident and it's being investigated at this time." The official identified the vessel attacked as the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Pacific Zircon. It's operated by Eastern Pacific Shipping, located in Singapore, which is a company owned by Ofer.

No group or country has so far claimed responsibility for the attack. Still, an unnamed Israeli security source blamed Iran today for the attack. According to the source, the attack was carried out using a Shaed-136 attack drone of the type Iran sold to Russia and has been used against Ukrainian civilians. The Israeli source estimated that the attack was an act of defiance against the West and could have been designed to cast a shadow on the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. For the moment, Israeli authorities have not reacted to the incident and have issued no special travel warning to Israelis visiting Qatar for the World Cup. For its part, Iran-affiliated Nournews blamed Israel, tweeting, ''The Zionists' evil during the World Cup, started earlier. Regional competitions and cabinet formation crisis in Israel, have activated Hebrew-Arab axis to attack the oil tanker.''

Eastern Pacific Shipping issued a statement this morning saying it was investigating the incident. "Preliminary reports indicate the vessel, carrying a cargo of gas oil, was hit by a projectile approximately 150 miles [240 kilometers] off the coast of Oman at about 15:30 (UTC+4) on Nov. 15, 2022. We are in communication with the vessel and there is no reports of injuries or pollution. All crew are safe and accounted for. There is some minor damage to the vessel’s hull but no spillage of cargo or water ingress."

Last night's attack was not the first time a vessel linked to Israeli owners or companies was targeted in the Red Sea. The Israeli-owned cargo ship MV Helios Ray suffered at least one explosion in February 2021 while sailing in the Gulf of Oman. In August 2021, suspected Iranian drones struck the Liberian-flagged Mercer Street vessel traveling from Tanzania to the United Arab Emirates. The vessel was managed by the London-based Zodiac Maritime company, owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer. 

Reports yesterday revealed that Israeli businessman Itsik Moshe was the target of a foiled Iranian attack in Georgia. Moshe has been the target of Iran in the past. He had worked as a top Jewish Agency official in Russia and is a well-known figure in the Georgian Jewish community. Reports said that an Iranian-led team of Pakistani nationals affiliated with al-Qaeda traveled to Georgia's capital of Tbilisi to gather intelligence and prepare for an attack against Moshe, but was arrested by Georgian security forces.

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