Defense Secretary Benny Gantz warned on Monday that Israel must act immediately against Tehran after a ship operated by an Israeli company was hit last week by a drone, apparently controlled by Iran.
Gantz described Thursday’s deadly attack on the oil tanker Mercer Street as a major escalation by Iran.
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“Iran’s aggression in the region in general and on the maritime front in particular is increasing,” Gantz said at a Knesset plenum. “This is exactly why we must act now against Iran, which is not just striving for a nuclear army.” [program] but also leads to a dangerous arms race and the crumbling of stability in the Middle East.”
There are “hundreds of Iranian UAVs in Iran, Yemen, Iraq and other countries,” Gantz warned. “There have been no fewer than five Iranian attacks on international ships in the past year, some using UAVs manufactured by the Iranian military industry.”
Two people, a Briton and a Romanian citizen, were killed aboard the oil tanker Mercer Street. Thursday’s drone attack was blamed on Iran by Israel, the US, the UK and Romania.
“Iran, under the ‘executioner’ [Ebrahim] Raisi, who takes office this week, will be more dangerous to the world than it has been before, more destructive to the region than it has been so far, and will strive to become an existential threat to Israel,” Gantz said. referring to the incoming Iranian president, accused of participating in the massacres of prisoners towards the end of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
שמתפרסמות הערב מספינת המרסר סטריט שנפגעה בסופש סמוך לעומאן. לראות את הנזק שעשה בגשר הפיקוד של הספינה המלט המתאבד האיראני שאהד שהרג את הקפטן הרומני והמאבטח הבריטי. ישראל במתקפה דיפלומטית עם ארהב שקובעות הערב שמדובר איראנית. pic.twitter.com/bGilqZPZKU
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“We will act to remove such a threat,” the defense minister warned.
“Israel has a variety of tools and options at its disposal to protect its citizens, and we will hold accountable anyone who wants to harm us, at the time, place and methods that serve us and our security,” he added.
The Mercer Street is a Liberian-flagged Japanese tanker with a foreign crew. The only ties to Israel are that the ship is operated by London-based Zodiac Maritime, a company owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.
Yet Israel believes this is precisely why it was hit, and views the attack as one that targeted its interests.
“This is not just an Israeli issue, the whole world is seeing the results of Iran’s aggression,” Gantz said.
“And any agreement with Iran should also aim to remove its threat to the region and harm innocent people and the global economy,” he added, referring to efforts to break the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, also known. as JCPOA, to recover. .
Under the deal, Iran accepted restrictions on its nuclear capabilities in exchange for an easing of sanctions.
But former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord three years later and reintroduced sanctions, forcing Tehran to withdraw from most of its nuclear commitments.
Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, has indicated a willingness to return to the deal and has conducted indirect negotiations with Iran, as well as formal talks with the remaining parties to the agreement: Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
The recent attack was the first known deadly attack after years of attacks on commercial shipping in the region over tensions between Israel and Iran over the tattered nuclear deal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.