Britain has joined Israel in accusing Iran of being behind an attack last week on an Israeli-managed oil tanker off the coast of Oman that killed two people, a Briton and a Romanian.
The July 27 incident that damaged the Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned Mercer Street tanker was the first fatal attack on commercial shipping in the region explicitly linked by foreign leaders to heightened tensions with Iran in recent years.
“We believe this attack was deliberate, targeted, and a clear violation of international law by Iran,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, adding that Britain and its allies planned a coordinated response over the strike.
Earlier in the day, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accused Iran of "trying to shirk responsibility" for the incident and said Tehran's denials were "cowardly."
The U.S. Navy said on July 31 that a “drone strike” had targeted the Mercer Street and that its USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher were escorting the damaged tanker to a safe port.
The Mercer Street is managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime, part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group.
In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Khatibzadeh described the allegation that Iran carried out the attack as “baseless.”
He told a weekly press conference on August 1 that Israel "has created insecurity, terror, and violence" and said "these accusations about Iran's involvement are condemned by Tehran."
Iran has blamed Israel for the assassination of a top nuclear scientist last year and a series of attacks on its nuclear facilities.
And Al Alam TV, the Iranian government's Arabic-language television network, cited unidentified sources as saying the attack was in response to a suspected, unspecified Israeli attack on an airport in Syria.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes on Iranian targets in Syria as part of a shadow war between the regional foes. In recent months, vessels linked to each nation have been mysteriously targeted in waters around the Middle East.
Tensions have risen in the Persian Gulf since the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.