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TV: Israel believes Iran struck ship in response to cyberattack on train system

July hacking of national rail in Islamic Republic also saw hackers publish phone number of supreme leader’s office

Iranians, mostly wearing face masks, are pictured in a train carriage at a metro station in the capital Tehran on June 10, 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic crisis (STRINGER / AFP)
Iranians, mostly wearing face masks, are pictured in a train carriage at a metro station in the capital Tehran on June 10, 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic crisis (STRINGER / AFP)

Israel believes Iran carried out the deadly attack on the oil tanker MT Mercer Street in response to a recent cyber attack supposedly carried out by Israel, according to a report Saturday.

The cyberattack in early July caused chaos in the Islamic Republic’s train system as hackers posted fake messages about alleged train delays or cancellations on display boards at stations across the country. They also urged passengers to call for information, while listing the phone number of the office of the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A Channel 13 news report, which did not cite its sources, claimed Israel assesses Iran was directly responding to those actions.

The report further said Iran was also hoping to raise insurance costs for ships with ties to Israel.

On Friday, state-owned Iranian news network Al-Alam, citing “well-informed sources,” said the attack was in response to a reported Israeli strike in Syria that it said killed “two resistance men” last week.

Iran has not officially taken responsibility for the attack.

Two ship crewmen, a British and Romanian national, died in Thursday night’s attack off the coast of Oman on the oil tanker Mercer Street, a ship operated by Zodiac Maritime, a London-based company belonging to Israeli tycoon Eyal Ofer.

Israeli and American officials have said it was apparently carried out by suicide drones that hit the ship.

A senior Israeli government source said on condition of anonymity Friday evening that “Iran is sowing violence and destruction in every corner of the region. They were so eager to attack an Israeli target that they’ve embroiled themselves and incriminated themselves in the killing of foreign citizens.”

In the wake of the attack, Defense Minister Benny Gantz called an urgent discussion with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and other defense officials on Friday. Israel was said to be considering taking action in response to the attack.

Analysts said the attack bore all the hallmarks of tit-for-tat exchanges in the shadow war between Israel and Iran, in which vessels linked to each nation have been targeted in waters around the Gulf.

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