Israel’s foreign minister has implored the British government to respond “severely” after a suspected Iranian drone attack on a tanker off the coast of Oman killed a British citizen.
The Israeli-operated ship Mercer Street was sailing through the Arabian Sea when a so-called “kamikaze” drone laden with explosives crashed into it, according to US officials.
A British man and a Romanian crew member were both killed in the attack, according to Zodiac Maritime, a firm owned by an Israeli billionaire which operates the vessel.
The Briton has not been named but is believed to have been a security guard on the vessel.
Yair Lapid, the Israeli foreign minister, has blamed Iran for the drone attack and says he has urged Dominic Raab, his UK counterpart, to “respond severely to the attack.”
According to US media reports, several drones attacked the ship, with one crashing into the living quarters, killing the Briton and the Romanian.
A State Department spokesman said the US was “deeply concerned by the reports and closely monitoring the situation.”
Israeli officials told the Telegraph that the attack on Mercer Street needed to be a wake-up call for Britain.
“Iran is spreading violence and destruction in every corner of the region,” the official said.
“Due to its enthusiasm for attacking an Israeli target, they have gotten themselves tangled up and have incriminated themselves by killing foreign citizens.”
The Iranian regime has not yet addressed those claims, though a report from the Iranian news network al-Alam claimed the attack was in response to an Israeli airstrike in Syria last week.
Al-Alam said that two “resistance fighters” had been killed during three strikes on Iranian targets in central and northern Syria.
The British government is yet to give any indication as to who it believes was behind the attack.
A Government spokesman said on Friday night: Our thoughts are with the loved ones of a British National who has died following an incident on a tanker off the coast of Oman.
“Vessels must be allowed to navigate freely in accordance with international law. We are working with our international partners to urgently establish the facts.”
The attack on Mercer Street is the latest flare-up in a so-called shadow war between arch-enemies Iran and Israel, who are accused of attacking each others’ vessels.
But it is the first known fatal attack since the Iran-Israel maritime conflict erupted last year.
The shadow war is being fuelled by stalled talks in Vienna on restoring the Obama-era nuclear deal, as well as a series of suspected Israeli strikes on nuclear facilities in Iran.
Both sides are also accused of launching cyber attacks on key infrastructure targets such as ports.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the US Foundation for Defence of Democracies said Iran’s naval arsenal has become much more sophisticated in recent years.
“It would be no surprise to me that Iran would use a drone to carry out its tit-for-tat against Israel and maritime vessels. Iran has shown a gradual escalation in maritime domain,” he said.
“This sort of tit-for-tat escalation is going to continue and Iran is likely to step up these attacks ... to signal that it will not take any cyber sabotage against it lying down."