Israel on Wednesday accused Iran of launching a drone attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman, with one official describing it as “an Iranian provocation in the Gulf” linked to the World Cup in Qatar.
A self-destructing drone attacked the Pacific Zircon, a Liberian-flagged, Israeli-affiliated tanker carrying gas oil, at about 10 p.m. Monday but it did not cause major damage, a US military official told CNN. The drone did not disable the ship or interrupt its journey, the US official said.
An Israeli official said the weapon was an Iranian “HESA Shahed 136 self-destructing drone, the same ones being used in Ukraine.” Iran has sent its self-destructing drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, underscoring the extent to which Iran has developed its attack drone technology.
“We see this as an Iranian provocation in the Gulf – it’s not an attack against Israel – it’s the same thing they usually do in the Gulf, trying to disrupt stability and mainly influence World Cup events,” said the Israeli official, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the situation.
US Central Command later said in a statement that “exploitation of the debris that hit the vessel reveals that it was a Shahed-series one-way attack drone.”
“This unmanned aerial vehicle attack against a civilian vessel in this critical maritime strait demonstrates, once again, the destabilizing nature of Iranian malign activity in the region” General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of U.S. Central Command, said in a statement.
The incident did not cause any injuries, according to Eastern Pacific Shipping, the vessel’s operating company.
“We are in communication with the vessel and there is no reports of injuries or pollution. All crew are safe and accounted for,” it said Wednesday. “There is some minor damage to the vessel’s hull but no spillage of cargo or water ingress.”
Marine Traffic showed the last known position for the tanker off the coast of Oman near Liwa on Monday.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Iran was likely behind a drone attack, saying in a statement that while there is “is no justification for this attack” it is “the latest in a pattern of such actions and broader destabilizing activities.”
“Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran likely conducted this attack using a UAV, a lethal capability it is increasingly employing directly and via its proxies throughout the Middle East and proliferating to Russia for use in Ukraine,” Sullivan said.
He warned the action threatens international shipping, commerce and the “freedom of navigation through this crucial waterway.”
CNN has reached out to the Iranian government for comment.
The weapon and the target fit the pattern of attacks linked to Iran in the past. On July 30, 2021, an armed drone attacked a cargo ship named Mercer Street off the coast of Oman, killing two. That ship was associated with an Israeli billionaire.
Soccer teams and supporters from 32 nations, including Iran, are gathering in Qatar ahead of the World Cup, which kicks off on Sunday.