Pentagon says Iranian drone 'attack' hit 'Israeli-linked' chemical tanker near India

US DOD says in statement this was the 'seventh Iranian attack on commercial shipping since 2021' as global tensions simmer amid Gaza war; CENTCOM says 4 Houthi drones headed toward US destroyer in southern Red Sea shot down

A drone launched from Iran struck a chemical tanker in the Indian Ocean early on Saturday, the U.S. Department of Defense said.
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"The motor vessel CHEM PLUTO, a Liberia-flagged, Japanese-owned, and Netherlands-operated chemical tanker was struck at approximately 10 a.m. local time (6 a.m. GMT) today in the Indian Ocean, 200 nautical miles from the coast of India, by a one-way attack drone fired from Iran," a Pentagon spokesperson told Reuters.
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ספינה ש"קשורה לישראל" הותקפה ליד הודו - במקביל לאיום מצד איראן
ספינה ש"קשורה לישראל" הותקפה ליד הודו - במקביל לאיום מצד איראן
(Photo: FBN Raiger,
The incident highlights escalating regional tensions and new risks to shipping lanes after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
The Iranian government, as well as its allied militant forces in Yemen, have publicly criticized the Israeli government's military operation in Gaza. Thousands of Palestinian citizens have been killed in the ongoing conflict, according to aid monitors.
The Pentagon statement said this was the "seventh Iranian attack on commercial shipping since 2021."
There were no casualties as a result of the attack and a brief fire on board the tanker was extinguished. The incident took place only 200 nautical miles from the coast of India.
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דיווח על מתקפה כטב"ם נגד ספינה סמוך לחופי הודו
דיווח על מתקפה כטב"ם נגד ספינה סמוך לחופי הודו
Location of drone attack
(Photo: UKMTO)
A spokesperson for the Iranian delegation at the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that four drones headed toward a U.S. destroyer in the southern Red Sea and launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on Saturday were shot down.
"These attacks represent the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since Oct. 17," CENTCOM said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command responded to distress calls from two ships under attack, CENTCOM said.
A Norwegian-flagged, -owned and -operated chemical/oil tanker reported a near miss of a Houthi drone attack, and a Gabon-owned, Indian-flagged crude oil tanker reported being hit by a one-way attack, the post said.
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לוחמים חות'ים
לוחמים חות'ים
Houthi gunmen
(Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)
Two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles were also "fired into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea from Houthi controlled areas of Yemen", it said. "No ships reported being impacted by the ballistic missiles."
The U.K. Maritime Trade Operations agency earlier reported that an uncrewed aerial system had exploded near a vessel in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, 45 nautical miles southwest of Saleef, Yemen.
On Saturday, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said the Mediterranean Sea could be closed if the United States and its allies continued to commit "crimes" in Gaza, Iranian media reported, without explaining how that would happen.
"They shall soon await the closure of the Mediterranean Sea, (the Strait of) Gibraltar and other waterways," Tasnim quoted Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, coordinating commander of the Guards, as saying.
The White House alleged on Friday that Iran was "deeply involved" in planning operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea and its intelligence was critical to enable the Houthis' targeting of maritime vessels.
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עלי חמינאי,  ג'ו ביידן ולוחם חות'י
עלי חמינאי,  ג'ו ביידן ולוחם חות'י
US President Joe Biden; a Houthi gunman walking past the Galaxy Leader cargo ship, hijacked by Iranian-backed rebels in November; Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
(Photo: AFP, EPA/YAHYA ARHAB , Reuters)
"We have no reason to believe that Iran is trying to dissuade the Houthis from this reckless behavior, White House national security spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing Western and regional security officials, that Tehran is providing real-time intelligence to the Houthis that the rebels are using to direct drone and missile attacks on ships passing through the Red Sea.
According to the officials, a surveillance vessel controlled by Iran’s paramilitary forces in the Red Sea is gathering tracking information and passing it to the Houthis, who have used it to attack commercial vessels passing through the Bab el-Mandeb strait in recent days.
The report comes just days after the U.S. announced the creation of a multinational operation to safeguard commerce in the Red Sea following a series of attacks by the Iran-aligned Houthis on shipping vessels.
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לוחם חות'י יורה טיל RPG במהלך תמרון צבאי ליד צנעא, תימן
לוחם חות'י יורה טיל RPG במהלך תמרון צבאי ליד צנעא, תימן
Houthi fighter firing man-portable anti-tank system during military drill near Sana’a, Yemen
(Photo: Houthi Media Center/Handout via REUTERS)
"This is an international challenge that demands collective action. Therefore today I am announcing the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an important new multinational security initiative," U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement during a visit to Bahrain early on Tuesday.
The recurring attacks on one of the world's busiest trade routes prompted major container shippers to divert vessels from the region, spurring a rise in oil prices and insurance rates.
According to the Wall Street Journal, many vessels sailing in the strait have been switching off their radios to avoid being tracked online, but an Iranian vessel stationed in the Red Sea is enabling the Houthi drones and missiles to accurately target the ships.
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