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Attacks on tankers carrying Iranian oil are reportedly due to covert Israeli operations

Business Insider US
An oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz
An oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
  • Israel has targeted tankers carrying Iranian oil with attacks, according to a WSJ report.
  • At least a dozen vessels have reportedly been targeted.
  • These attacks may represent a new front in the shadowy Israel-Iran conflict.
  • See more stories on Business Insider SA's home page.

Israel has used mines and other weapons to sabotage at least a dozen tankers carrying Iranian oil and bound for Syria, according to a Wall Street Journal report, which cited US and regional officials.

In violation of US and international sanctions, Iran has continued trading oil with Syria. Israel is reportedly concerned that the profits from these sales help fund terrorism in the region, and has targeted the tankers as a result. These tankers tend to carry hundreds of millions of dollars worth of oil.

A shipping professional told the Journal that Israel conducted three strikes against ships carrying Iranian oil in 2019, and a separate shipping professional said six ships used by Iran were targeted last year.

The report said that Israeli operatives were suspected of planting a limpet mine on an Iranian vessel anchored near Lebanon in February. The ship was en route to Syria.

There are not any known instances of ships being sunk as a result of these suspected operations, but at least two were forced to return to Iran and delivery of oil to Syria was delayed as a consequence, the Journal reported.

The alleged Israeli attacks may represent a new front in the conflict between these two historic adversaries.

The Israeli government has not commented on the reported operations and the military declined to comment when contacted by the Journal. The Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider. The Iranian Mission to the UN also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administration tacitly supported the Israeli operations, according to the report, and the US does not appear to be doing anything to prevent such strikes.

Iran and Israel, longtime adversaries, have made an array of allegations against each another in recent months.

Israeli Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel in early March accused Iran of deliberately orchestrating a massive oil spill near its shores in early February, describing it as an act of environmental terrorism.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also recently alleged that Iran attacked an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman. Iran rejected the accusation.

In November 2020, Iran accused Israel of orchestrating the assassination of one of its top nuclear scientists.

The US in 2019 accused Iran of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, as tensions between Washington and Tehran reached historic heights under then-President Donald Trump.

The contentious dynamic between the US and Iran has not dissipated under new President Joe Biden thus far. Biden in late February ordered airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militias in Syria. The strikes were retaliation for a rocket attack in Irbil, Iraq, earlier in the month that killed a foreign contractor and wounded a number of Americans. Biden said that the strikes were designed to send a message to Iran to "be careful."

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