Syrian blames Israel for mysterious attacks on oil tankers


DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria’s foreign minister blamed Israel for mysterious attacks over more than a year targeting oil tankers heading to Syria, saying 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 how Israel was behind the attacks.

Messages left with the Israeli defense ministry and prime minister’s office Monday seeking comment were not immediately returned.

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.

U.S. Treasury sanctions have targeted a network that spans Syria, Iran and Russia responsible for shipping oil to the Syrian government, which has been at 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.

“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 U.S. 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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