Israel has blamed Iran for being behind an attack on an oil tanker in which two crew members – a British citizen and a Romanian citizen – were killed.
The MV Mercer Street, operated by London-based Zodiac Maritime, was on the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea when the incident took place on Thursday.
The company, which is owned by Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer, declared it was investigating what happened.
But Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid blamed “Iranian terrorism” on Friday.
“Iran is not just an Israeli problem,” Lapid said in a statement, adding, “The world should not remain silent.”
Details of the attack on the tanker owned in Japan, however, are still unclear. Iran has not yet said anything on the allegations. The occurrence seems to be a serious increase in tension in the region, and some reports suggest a drone was involved.
A British government spokesman said he was also trying to “establish the facts urgently”.
“We are thinking of the loved ones of a British citizen who died after an incident on a tanker off the coast of Oman,” the statement said.
It added that vessels “should be allowed to sail following international law”.
In a declaration on Friday, Zodiac Maritime announced the two fatalities with “deep sadness”. It is said that no other injuries were reported.
The company added that the vessel is now sailing “under the control of its crew” and is on its way to a safe place with a U.S. Navy escort.
The unprecedented “shadow war” between Israel and Iran seems to be brewing.
There have been several attacks on both Israeli and Iranian vessels in recent months, with both countries dealing with accusations and denials.
But this attack indicates a significant increase in the number of people dying.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapad demanded a tough answer, saying he had consulted with his British counterpart Dominic Raab and that the issue would be taken to the U.N.
An Iranian Arab language station quoted unnamed sources as saying the attack was revenge for an alleged Israeli attack on an airport in Syria, an ally of Iran.
An anonymous Israeli official declared it would be difficult for Israel to keep the attack blind.
The U.K. Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) naval authority asserted that it was probing the accident, which took place near the Omani island of Masirah, and confirmed that ‘coalition forces’ were helping the vessel.
The U.S. State Department declared they were “deeply worried” about the reports and that “the situation is being closely monitored”.
The tanker travelled from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania in the northern Indian Ocean to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
According to Zodiac Maritime, it had no load on board at the time of the incident. Several previous incidents have been reported on ships from Israel as well as in Iran in the area. Vessels were damaged in these incidents, but accidents are rare.