JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Defense Chief Benny Gantz said on Monday that the alleged Iranian attack on an Israeli- linked oil tanker off the coast of Oman last week was “a stepping-up of the escalation” and called for an international response.
Gantz called the attack, which killed two crew members – one from the United Kingdom and one from Romania – a “violation of international law and human morality.”
“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 destabilise the Middle East with terrorist militias who are armed with hundreds of drones in Iran, Yemen, Iraq and other countries,” said Gantz.
Israel, the United States and the UK blame Iran for the deadly drone strike on the Mercer Street ship. The ship is managed by an Israeli billionaire. Iran denies all responsibility but has used so-called “suicide drones” in previous attacks. The region has also seen an increase in attack on commercial vessels since the collapse of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers in 2018.
Gantz said that any future agreement designed to hinder Iran’s nuclear capabilities should address Iran's “aggression in the region and harming both innocent people and to the global economy.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday vowed a collective response against Iran.
“We are in very close contact, in coordination, with the United Kingdom, Israel, Romania and other countries. And there will be a collective response,” he said.
Meanwhile, diplomats from Iran and the UK exchanged threats.
Britain summoned Iran's ambassador, Mohsen Baharvand, to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the incident an “unlawful and callous attack.”
Iran responded by summoning the British charge d'affaires in Tehran and condemned these “hasty, contradictory and unsubstantiated statements.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry also said it would defend itself against any “adventurous action.''
The attack on the Mercer Street is the first known fatal strike on a commercial ship in the region in years.