JEDDAH: Israel’s defense minister warned on Thursday that his country is prepared to strike Iran, issuing the threat after a fatal drone strike on an oil tanker at sea that his nation blamed on Tehran.
The comments by Benny Gantz come as Israel lobbies countries for action at the UN over last week’s attack on the oil tanker Mercer Street that killed two people. The tanker, struck off Oman in the Arabian Sea, is managed by a firm owned by an Israeli billionaire.
The US and the UK also blamed Iran for the attack. Iran, which along with its regional militia allies has launched similar drone attacks, has denied being involved.
Speaking to the news website Ynet, Gantz responded to whether Israel was prepared to attack Iran with a blunt “yes.”
“We are at a point where we need to take military action against Iran,” Gantz said. “The world needs to take action against Iran now.”
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, told Arab News that Iran always plays the role of the victim. He said unless the international community agrees to put an end to Iran’s aggression and threats, “the regime will continue to threaten the most important sea navigation routes used by oil tankers.”
Al-Shehri said he expects the Israeli response to the ship attack to be limited, but “painful” for Iran.
“Today, there will be a closed session at the UN Security Council, and that means Iran will face the consequences of its heinous act.
“The whole world is watching the aggressive behavior of the Iranian regime in the region but is sorrowfully doing nothing in return. There has been no concrete attempt to stop Tehran from destabilizing peace and security in the region, or to stop its nuclear program,” he said.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh described Gantz’s threat as “another brazen violation of Int’l law” and “malign behavior.” He tweeted: “We state this clearly: ANY foolish act against Iran will be met with a DECISIVE response. Don’t test us.”
The latest provocation occurred earlier this week, when hijackers stormed an asphalt tanker off the coast of the UAE in the Gulf of Oman, briefly seizing the vessel before departing on Wednesday.
The US Central Command, known as CENTCOM, put the blame squarely on Iran. “We are troubled by the temporary forcible seizure of the M/V Asphalt Princess by Iranian gunmen,” said US Air Force Maj Nicole Ferrara, a CENTCOM spokesman. “We are looking into the incident, but do not have an understanding of what the Iranians were doing at this time, or why they would impede the transit of this legitimate commercial vessel.”