A merchant vessel, operated by the company of Israeli billionaire, Eyal Ofer, has been attacked off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea. The incident is currently under investigation.
The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) was first to report the attack, saying that it occurred late on Thursday, northeast of the Omani island of Masirah, some 300 kilometers southeast of the country’s capital.
In a brief statement, UKMTO added that it was looking into the details of the incident, only saying that it wasn’t related to piracy.
According to AP, the UK Ministry of Defence then announced that the affected vessel was Israeli-owned, but didn’t reveal its name or any further details.
London-based Zodiac Management, which is part of the Zodiac Group of Israeli shipping and real estate tycoon Eyal Ofer, later confirmed that one of its ships – product tanker Mercer Street – has been attacked off the coast of Oman.
We can confirm that there has been a suspected Piracy incident onboard the product tanker M/T Mercer Street.
However, the company clarified that it didn’t own the vessel, but only operated it. Mercer Street had been travelling under the Liberian flag and has a Japanese owner, it added. Zodiac Management said that it was also investigating the incident, while keeping in touch with UKMTO and other relevant agencies.
Neither Israeli nor Omani authorities have yet officially commented on the attack. The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which carries out patrol missions in the Middleastern waters, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment when approached by AP.
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The story gained attention as attacks on Israeli and Iranian-owned vessels have occurred frequently since the start of the year, with the two archrivals blaming each other for those incidents. Israeli media have described it as “shadow war” between the countries.
In early July, a merchant ship, which used to be under Israeli ownership, caught fire after being hit by an “unknown weapon” in the northern Indian Ocean. A month earlier, the Iranian training and logistics vessel, IRIS Kharg – the largest in country’s navy – sank in the Gulf of Oman as a result of major blaze aboard.
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More such incidents happened this year, but in all of these the affected vessels avoided serious damage and could resume operations after repairs.
In March, a report by the Wall Street Journal claimed Israel used naval mines to bomb at least a dozen ships carrying Iranian oil in the Red Sea and other parts of the region over the past two years. The piece, which cited unnamed US and regional officials, said that the Jewish State acted out of fear that Tehran was using oil money to fund extremism in the Middle East.
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