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Syria blames Israel for mysterious attacks on oil tankers

Without providing evidence for Jerusalem’s involvement, foreign minister threatens ‘these attacks cannot continue with Israel not paying a price’

A screenshot of video aired by Syrian state TV on April 24, 2021, shows a fire on a ship off the coast of Banyas, which Syria says was apparently started after the ship was attacked by a drone. (Screen capture: Twitter)
A screenshot of video aired by Syrian state TV on April 24, 2021, shows a fire on a ship off the coast of Banyas, which Syria says was apparently started after the ship was attacked by a drone. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Syria’s foreign minister has blamed Israel for mysterious attacks over more than a year targeting oil tankers heading from Iran to Syria, claiming they violate international law and will not go unpunished.

Faisal Mekdad told Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV in an interview aired late Sunday that oil tankers coming to Syria now move under Russian protection. He did not provide any evidence for Israel being behind the attacks.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli authorities on the matter.

Israel has clamped down on alleged Iranian entrenchment in Syria, and has taken action to prevent Iranian missiles and their components from reaching Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, which is supported by Tehran and Damascus.

Syria’s oil resources are mostly outside of government-controlled areas, but two of its refineries are operating. This makes Syria reliant on Iran for fuel.

US Treasury sanctions have targeted a network that spans Syria, Iran and Russia responsible for shipping oil to the Syrian government, as the country has been going through a civil war for more than a decade.

For more than a year, vessels carrying oil to Syria, as well as some oil facilities in government-held parts of the war-torn country, have been subjected to mysterious attacks.

Vessels carrying oil to Syria travel from the gulf to the Red Sea to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.

Then-Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad speaks to reporters in Damascus, Syria, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

“There should be deterrence to Israeli attacks on ships,” Mekdad said, without going into details. “The Israeli government and arrogant Israeli leaders must understand that these attacks cannot continue with Israel not paying a price.”

Last month, Syria’s oil ministry said a fire erupted in a tanker on its coast after what it said was a suspected drone attack.

Also in April, an attack targeted an Iranian cargo ship that is said to serve as a floating base for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard forces off the coast of Yemen.

A shadow war in Mideast waters emerged in 2019, when the US Navy blamed a series of blasts in June that year in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on Iran.

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