DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire was hit by a bomb-carrying drone off the coast of Oman amid heightened tensions with Iran, officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday. .
The attack on the Liberian-flagged tanker Pacific Zircon happened Tuesday night off the coast of Oman, a defense official based in the Middle East said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the attack publicly.
Pacific Zircon is run by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, which is ultimately owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer.
Eastern Pacific Shipping said in a statement that the Pacific Zircon, which was carrying diesel, was “hit by a projectile” about 150 miles (240 kilometers) off the coast of Oman.
“We are contacting the vessel and there are no reports of injury or contamination. All crew members are safe and valued,” the company said. “There was some minor damage to the hull, but no cargo was spilled or flooded.”
An Israeli official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss unreleased details of the attack said Iran appeared to have carried out the strike with a Shahed-136 explosive drone.Iran supplied these drones to Russiawhich has been using them to target infrastructure and civilian targets in Ukraine.
“This was an Iranian attack, and there was consensus among the Israeli intelligence community and the defense community,” the official said.
The Iranian government has not acknowledged the attack on Pacific Zircon. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Oil prices edged up as news of the attack spread, with benchmark Brent crude trading above $94 a barrel.
While no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, suspicion immediately fell on Iran.Tehran and Israel have waged a years-long shadow war in the wider Middle Eastsome drones attacked Israel-linked ships sailing in the area.
The US also blamed Iran for a string of attacks off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in 2019Tehran had already begun upgrading its nuclear program after the United States unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s atomic deal with world powers.
In 2021, a suspected Iranian drone attack on an Israeli-linked oil tanker, Mercer Street, near Omankilling two people on board.
It was not immediately clear where the ship was on Wednesday. Satellite tracking data from late Tuesday, provided by MarineTraffic.com, showed the ship sailed deep into the Arabian Sea after leaving the Omani port of Sohar.
Since the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal, nonproliferation experts have warned that the Islamic Republic now has enough enriched uranium to make at least one nuclear weapon if it wanted toalthough Tehran insists its plans are peaceful.
Iran has also been lashing out at its enemies abroad amid months of nationwide protests now challenging its theocracy.
Torbjorn Soltvedt, an analyst at risk intelligence firm Verisk Maplecroft, said the attack was “not a surprise”.
“In the wider region, the risk of attacks targeting shipping and energy infrastructure is rising, largely due to the lack of progress in U.S.-Iranian nuclear diplomacy and Washington’s decision to impose further sanctions pressure on Iran,” he said. “Since 2019, Iran has been responding to new U.S. sanctions with covert military operations in the region.”
“There is a growing risk not only of damaging attacks on energy infrastructure in the region, but also of a broader military confrontation with more serious consequences for world energy markets,” he added.
The tanker attack also came days before the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. While Doha enjoys good relations with Tehran and shares a huge offshore gas field with Tehran, the Israelis will be in the race. The Iranian national team will also face Britain and the United States in the first round, which Iran accuses of fomenting unrest in Iran.
Associated Press writers Tia Goldenberg and Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.