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Israeli premier blames Iran for tanker assault; Tehran denies

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Israel’s prime minister Sunday straight blamed Iran for a drone assault on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman that killed two folks, making a veiled menace to retaliate as Tehran denied being concerned within the assault.

The feedback by Premier Naftali Bennett and Iranian International Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh come after the strike Thursday evening on the oil tanker Mercer Avenue. The assault marked the first-known deadly assault after years of assaults on business transport within the area linked to tensions with Iran over its tattered nuclear deal.

Whereas nobody has claimed accountability for the assault, Iran and its militia allies have used so-called “suicide” drones in assaults beforehand.

“The Iranians who attacked with unmanned plane the Mercer Avenue supposed to hurt an Israeli goal,” Bennett mentioned at first of Israel’s weekly Cupboard assembly. “As a substitute, their piratical act brought about the deaths of a British citizen and a Romanian citizen.”

He warned: “We all know, at any price, know the way to convey the message to Iran in our personal manner.”

On Sunday, Khatibzadeh described the allegation Iran carried out the assault as “baseless” throughout his final news convention because the International Ministry’s spokesman.

“It is not the primary time that the Zionist regime occupying Jerusalem has made such empty accusations in opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Khatibzadeh mentioned. “Wherever this regime has gone, it has taken instability, terror and violence with it.”

He added: “Whoever sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind.”

Khatibzadeh spoke round an hour after Iran’s outgoing president acknowledged that his authorities at occasions “didn’t inform a part of the reality” to the general public throughout his time period.

The American nuclear-powered plane provider USS Ronald Reagan and the guided missile destroyer USS Mitscher had been escorting the Mercer Avenue because it headed to a protected port, the U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based fifth Fleet mentioned in a press release early Saturday. It mentioned Navy explosive consultants consider a drone attacked the vessel.

The drone assault blasted a gap by the highest of the oil tanker’s bridge, the place the captain and crew command the vessel, a U.S. official mentioned. The official spoke on situation of anonymity as an investigation into the assault nonetheless was ongoing.

The Mercer Avenue is managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime, a part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. The agency mentioned the assault killed two crew members, one from the UK and the opposite from Romania. It didn’t identify them, nor did it describe what occurred within the assault. It mentioned it believed no different crew members on board had been harmed.

British maritime safety agency Ambrey mentioned the assault on the Mercer Avenue had killed certainly one of its workforce members on board the vessel.

From Jerusalem, Bennett provided condolences to each the UK and Romania for the killing of their residents. He mentioned Israeli intelligence had proof linking Iran to the assault, however didn’t provide it.

“Iran is the one who carried out the assault in opposition to the ship,” he mentioned. “Iran’s aggressive habits is harmful not just for Israel, however harms international pursuits within the freedom of navigation and worldwide commerce.”

Bennett took over as premier in June after a coalition deal unseated Israel’s long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is suspected of launching a series of assaults focusing on Iran, together with explosions on the nation’s primary enrichment web site and the killing of a outstanding army nuclear scientist.

Nonetheless, Bennett as nicely has made hawkish feedback prior to now about needing to assault “the pinnacle of the octopus” in Tehran versus Iran’s regional militias like Hezbollah in Lebanon. The assault on the Mercer Avenue marks the primary throughout his time as prime minister and analysts recommend he may search a serious assault in retaliation.

“Israel could want to ship a convincing blow; that’s the spirit of political sources’ feedback in Jerusalem,” wrote Amos Harel, a longtime army analyst for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “This blow will probably be geared toward ending issues with no tit-for-tat that would escalate. However as traditional, occasions additionally depend upon the opposite aspect.”

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Related Press writers Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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