Israeli defense chief: Alleged Iran attack an 'escalation'

·2 min read

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's defense minister said Monday that Iran's alleged attack on a merchant ship in the Arabian Sea last week was "a stepping-up of the escalation” of hostilities by Iran, and called for international action.

Benny Gantz addressed Israel's parliament, the Knesset, and said the drone strike on the Mercer Street that left two crew members dead — one from the United Kingdom and one from Romania — was “in violation of international law and human morality.” He charged that Iran was behind at least five attacks on international shipping in the last year.

The United States, Britain and Israel have blamed Iran for the fatal attack on the Israeli-linked oil tanker. Iran denies involvement.

While no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, Iran and its militia allies have used so-called “suicide” drones in attacks previously. The region has seen a rise in attacks on commercial vessels in the aftermath of the disintegration of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

“This is exactly the reason why we must act now against Iran, which is not only striving toward nuclear arms, but is also bringing about a dangerous arms race and intends to destabilize the Middle East with terrorist militias who are armed with hundreds of drones in Iran, Yemen, Iraq and other countries in the region,” he said.

Gantz said that any future agreement between world powers and Iran to rein in its nuclear program must also address Iranian's “aggression in the region and harming both innocent people and to the global economy.”

“This is not a future threat, rather a tangible and immediate danger,” he said.

In Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. was “confident that Iran carried out this attack.”

“It follows a pattern of similar attacks by Iran, including past incidents with explosive drones,” he told reporters at the State Department. “There is no justification for this attack on a peaceful vessel on a commercial mission, international waters rise action is a direct threat to freedom of navigation and commerce, took the lives of innocent sailors.”

Blinken said the U.S. was in close contact with the U.K., Israel and Romania and "there will be a collective response.” He did not elaborate on what that response might be.

The Associated Press

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