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Syria: Blaze on oil was tanker due to ‘technical failure’; monitor claims an explosion

BEIRUT — A fire that broke out on an oil tanker off northwest Syria’s Banyas refinery was due to “technical failure” in one of its engines, state media reports.

“A technical failure in one of the engines of an oil tanker parked off the coast of the city of Banyas led to a small fire and the appearance of black smoke,” SANA news agency says.

“The fire was dealt with by the tanker’s crew and it was put out immediately before causing any damage.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says an “explosion” caused the blaze.

It was the same “Iranian vessel” that had caught fire in an April 24 attack that killed three Syrians, including two crew members, according to the war monitor’s head Rami Abdul Rahman.

The monitor has previously faced questions over its credibility.

Syria’s oil ministry at the time said a drone attack was believed to have caused the blaze.

Tanker Trackers identified today’s vessel as the Panama-flagged WISDOM ship — the same ship in last month’s attack.

Banias oil refinery is located in the regime-controlled coastal province of Tartus.

Early last year, Damascus said divers had planted explosives on offshore pipelines of Banias refinery, but the damage had not halted operations.

And in February 2020, four oil and gas sites in the central Syrian province of Homs were attacked by armed drones, sparking fires and causing damage.

Before its war broke out in 2011, Syria enjoyed relative energy autonomy, but production has since plummeted, pushing the government to rely on importing hydrocarbons.

Western sanctions on oil shipping, as well as US punitive measures against Syria’s ally Iran, have complicated these imports.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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