DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An oil tanker associated with an Israeli billionaire has been hit by a bomb-carrying drone off the coast of Oman amid heightened tensions with Iran, an official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The attack on the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Pacific Zircon took place off the coast of Oman on Tuesday night, the Middle East-based defense official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to discuss the attack publicly.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a British military organization in the region that monitors shipping, told the AP: “We are aware of an incident and it is currently being investigated.”
The Pacific Zircon is operated by Eastern Pacific Shipping of Singapore, a company ultimately owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer.
In a statement, Eastern Pacific Shipping said the Pacific Zircon, which was carrying gas oil, was “hit by a projectile” some 150 miles off the coast of Oman.
“We are in communication with the ship and there are no reports of injuries or contamination. All crew members are safe and responsible,” the company said. “There is some minor damage to the ship’s hull, but no cargo was spilled or water entered.”
A phone call to the Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi went unanswered. The Prime Minister’s Office of Israel and the Ministry of Defense declined to comment.
Oil prices rose slightly as word of the attack spread, with benchmark Brent crude trading above $94 a barrel.
Although no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, suspicion immediately fell on Iran. Tehran and Israel have been embroiled in a years-long shadow war in the Middle Eastwith some drone strikes targeting Israel-associated ships traveling through the region.
The US also blamed Iran for a series of attacks off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in 2019. Tehran had then begun to escalate its nuclear program following the unilateral US withdrawal from its nuclear deal with world powers.
In 2021, a suspected Iranian drone strike hit the Israel-associated oil tanker Mercer Street off the coast of Omankilling two people on board.
The Iranian state media did not immediately acknowledge the attack on the Pacific Zircon. It was not immediately clear where the ship was on Wednesday. Late Tuesday satellite tracking data provided by MarineTraffic.com took the ship deep into the Arabian Sea after leaving the Omani port of Sohar.
Since the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal, nonproliferation experts have been warning that the Islamic Republic now has enough enriched uranium to make at least one nuclear weapon if it so chooses.though Tehran insists its program is peaceful.
Iran is also lashing out at its perceived enemies abroad amid months of nationwide protests now challenging its theocracy.
It also comes just days before the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. While Doha maintains good relations with Tehran, with whom it shares a huge offshore natural gas field, Israelis will attend the tournament. Iran’s national team will also face Britain and the US in first-round matches, two countries it accuses of fomenting unrest.
Associated Press writers Tia Goldenberg and Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.