image Shipping Or Shaping. A Target-Rich Theater Of War. Earlier Casualty In Iranian-Israeli Conflict. Photo: Reuters

Iran: Israel attacked oil tanker near Syria

Syria‘s Ministry of Oil revealed that a fire erupted aboard an oil tanker off the Baniyas refinery following a suspected drone attack launched from the waters of neighboring Lebanon.

The Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran has vowed to avenge the attack against Israel.

“The Zionists think they can strike Syria without repercussion,” Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri told the pro-Damascus, Hezbollah-affiliated Al Mayadeen Lebanese satellite television channel yesterday, while threatening to teach Israel “a very good lesson.”

Bagheri, who holds the highest military position in Iran as commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). “Israelis think they can keep hitting Syria and make mischievous moves elsewhere and in the seas and not receive any response,” he said, underscoring that, “The moves made in the past few days and future moves against their interests will make them be wise.”

The IDF has declined to comment on the incident.

The identity and number of possible casualties in the strike remains unclear. Syria’s SANA news agency reported that 3 Syrians were killed in the attack. Iran’s own Arabic-language al-Alam TV identified the vessel as one of three Iranian oil tankers that had recently docked at the Syrian oil terminal, and that while the ship sustained some damage there had been no casualties.

Citing “certain sources,” Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency said: “The accident happened to another vessel… and is not linked to a ship carrying Iranian cargo.”

A tweet by the online independent TankerTrackers service read, “the tanker seen burning today off the coast of Baniyas is not an Iranian vessel” and was registered to Beirut.

Israel and Iran are believed to be engaged in a covert “shadow war, particularly on the high seas with numerous attacks on one another’s fleets.

Israel is alleged to have recently expanded strikes on Iranian targets, including suspected weapons production centers in Syria, to repel what it sees as a military encroachment by its regional arch-enemy in the Arab Republic.

In a rare admission, the IDF acknowledged strikes against a missile launcher and air-defense systems in Syria after a Syrian surface-to-air missile exploded near Israel’s nuclear reactor outside Dimona.

Industry experts say that the coastal Syrian town of Baniyas houses a refinery – which together with another in Homs – covers a significant part of the country’s demand for diesel, heating fuel, gasoline and other petroleum products.  Gasoline and fuel shortages have spiked in the war-torn Arab Republic over the past year, prompting rising prices and the rationing of supplies in regime-controlled territories.

Damascus to become more dependent on Tehran for oil shipments in recent years, which has become increasingly difficult to supply due to tightening Western sanctions on Syria, Iran and their allies.