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Military action may be needed to stop Iran attacks, Israel defense chief says

The Hill logo The Hill 8/4/2021 Laura Kelly
Benny Gantz wearing a suit and tie: Military action may be needed to stop Iran attacks, Israel defense chief says © Getty Images Military action may be needed to stop Iran attacks, Israel defense chief says

Israel on Wednesday called on the international community to consider military action against Iran following a fatal drone attack on an Israeli-owned commercial shipping vessel in the north Arabian Sea that took place last week.

"Now is the time for deeds - words are not enough. It is time for diplomatic, economic and even military deeds - otherwise the attacks will continue," Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a meeting in Jerusalem with representatives of United Nation Security Council members.

The Security Council has five permanent members - the U.S., United Kingdom, France, China and Russia - and 10 nonpermanent members each elected for two years.

The U.S., United Kingdom and Romania have joined Israel in attributing responsibility to Iran for the attack on the ship Mercer Street that is said to have taken place on Friday.

The ship was targeted with explosives delivered by drone, and that attack took place off the coast of Oman. Two sailors were killed in the attack, a British and Romanian national.

Gantz said Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) air force was responsible for the attack on the Mercer Street. He said the air force's commander, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, and the head of the IRGC's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Command, Saeed Ara Jani, directed of the operation.

Israel's defense establishment said it shared intelligence with partners and that it will continue to provide them with concrete evidence related to the recent attacks.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said the U.S. is "confident" Iran carried out the attack and that it fits a pattern of similar attacks by the Islamic Republic. The secretary said the U.S. is coordinating with partners and consulting with governments in the region.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met Tuesday in Washington with Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata and Israeli senior foreign policy adviser Shimrit Meir. During the meeting, Sherman reaffirmed America's "ironclad commitment to Israel's security."

However, the United Nations has yet to assign Iran responsibility for the attack.

"We do not have any specific information ... on who could have attacked the vessel," said St├ęphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general, in a briefing with reporters Tuesday.

Dujarric said the U.N. condemns the attack and called for ensuring freedom of navigation and a general deescalation.

The attack on the Mercer Street comes as international talks have stalled over bringing Iran and the U.S. back into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 international agreement that put restrictions on Iran's nuclear program and opened it up to monitoring in exchange for sanctions relief.

The U.S. is intent on reentering the agreement, which former President Trump withdrew from in 2018, but Israel has stated its vehement opposition to reviving the deal.

Iran has yet to agree to a seventh round of indirect discussions over rejoining the JCPOA and has increased its violations of the terms of the agreement related to nuclear fuel enrichment and infrastructure related to developing a bomb. This has drawn condemnation from the U.S. and Israel.

Gantz on Wednesday criticized Iran's behavior and said the Islamic Republic is 10 weeks way from acquiring "weapons-grade materials necessary for a nuclear weapon."

"Iran has once again proven to be a global challenge, a regional challenge and also a challenge to the State of Israel. Iran is responsible for dozens of terror attacks across the Middle East, while controlling its proxies in Yemen, Iraq and additional countries," he said.

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