Gantz: Israel will respond to Iran attack when and how it wants

Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Knesset, August 2, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

UK’s Johnson says Iran must “face up to the consequences of outrageous attack” on Israel-linked ship near Oman.

Israel will retaliate against anyone who seeks to harm the Jewish state “in the time and place and way” of its choosing, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Monday.
Warning that Israel has a “variety of tools and options” to protect its citizens, he stressed it would make Iran pay for the deadly drone attack that hit the Mercer Street ship near the shores of Oman, which killed two people.
“This is not just an Israeli matter,” Gantz said. “The whole world sees the results of Iran’s aggression and must take action. Any agreement with Iran must also address its aggression in the region and its harm both to innocent people and to the global economy.”
Although Iran has denied being behind the attack on the Israeli-managed ship on which a Romanian and a British national were killed, an Iranian official on Monday said Tehran would respond to any retaliation.
“Although the Islamic Republic of Iran considers the threats of Western officials and those of the Zionist regime as propaganda, any move against the interests and national security of Iran will face a tough and firm response, and Washington and London will be directly responsible for its consequences,” the official was quoted by Nour News as saying.
Iranian maritime aggression has gotten worse, Gantz said, adding that it has attacked five international ships over the past year.
The deadly attack against the Mercer Street “that resulted in the murder of two civilians is a clear violation of international law,” he said. “It is immoral, and it constitutes an escalation” by Iran.
The threat posed by Iran is “not a future threat, but rather a tangible and immediate one,” Gantz said, adding that Israel would work to remove any threat against Israeli citizens and interests.
“Iran, under the murderous [President-elect Ebrahim] Raisi, who will take office this week, will be more dangerous to the world than it has been so far, more destructive to the region than it has been so far, and will strive to become an existential threat to Israel,” he said. “We will work to remove any such threat.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday said: “Iran should face up to the consequences of what they’ve done.”
“This was clearly an unacceptable and outrageous attack on commercial shipping,” he said. “A UK national died. It is absolutely vital that Iran and every other country respects the freedoms of navigation around the world, and the UK will continue to insist on that.”
Johnson “is right. Iran must bear the consequences,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tweeted.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the attack on Monday at the State Department.
“We’ve conducted a thorough review, and we’re confident that Iran carried out this attack,” he said.
“It follows a pattern of similar attacks by Iran, including past incidents with explosive drones,” Blinken said. “There is no justification for this attack on a peaceful vessel on a commercial mission in international waters. Iran’s action is a direct threat to freedom of navigation and commerce. It took the lives of innocent sailors.
“We’re currently coordinating with our partners and consulting with governments in the region, and we joined others around the world in sending our deepest condolences to the families of the British and Romanian crew members who were killed.”
“Iran continues to act with tremendous irresponsibility, when it comes to, in this instance, threats to navigation, to commerce, to innocent sailors who are simply engaged in commercial transit in international waters. And as I noted, we are in very close contact and coordination with the United Kingdom, Israel, Romania and other countries,” he said.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett contrasted the responses of the US and the UK to the Iranian attack, which have been in line with Israel’s thus far, with the diplomatic situation under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Look at what happened this weekend,” he said in the Knesset. “With an international campaign, suddenly the US and Britain stand with us. To go and fight with them when Iran is running forward [with its nuclear program] is irresponsibility at a national level. That is the legacy [Netanyahu is] leaving, and we will fix it.”
UK Middle East Minister James Cleverly summoned Iran’s ambassador in London, Mohsen Baharvand, over the attack on the Mercer Street and “reiterated that Iran must immediately cease actions that risk international peace and security, and reinforced that vessels must be allowed to navigate freely in accordance with international law,” the Foreign Office stated.
Romania summoned Iran’s ambassador, as well.
In response, Iran summoned the British and Romanian ambassadors.
Earlier, Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu joined the US and UK in saying that Bucharest would work with international partners on a response to the Iranian attack.
“Based on [the] available info, Romania strongly condemns [the] Iranian drone attack against Mercer Street, during which a [Romanian] citizen was killed,” he tweeted. “There is no justification whatsoever for deliberately attacking civilians.”
A team from the UK is expected to arrive in the Gulf in the coming days to investigate the attack, UK Deputy Ambassador to Israel Mark Power told KAN News.
The Mercer Street is a Liberian-flagged and Japanese-owned ship, but it is managed by Israeli company Zodiac Maritime.
“The Israeli army has drawn up a list of Iranian targets to respond to the attack on a tanker off the coast of Oman,” Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported. The article was headlined with claims the US and UK have “green-lighted” an Israeli response to the attack.
The paper, which in the past has also claimed to have sources revealing Iranian attacks and Israeli responses, said there were accelerated contacts between Israel and the US. The attack on the ship off Oman’s coast would not go unnoticed, and Israel will “deal a painful blow” in response, the report said.
The article stressed that “Britain, whose nationals were killed in the attack, and the United States gave a green light to respond.”
The retaliation could be against several key targets, such as the port of Bandar Abbas, or “destruction of ships near Iranian shores, and the last of which is the targeting of an Iranian warship, from which it is believed that the ‘drones’ launched the attack,” the report said.
Seth Frantzman and Omri Nahmias contributed to this report.

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