Photo Credit: IsraelPM / YouTube
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi

Senior Israeli and US defense officials met on Monday following an Iranian attack on an London-based Israeli-operated ship last week in the Gulf of Oman and ahead of a possible reprisal attack on Iran.

An Iranian suicide drone is believed to have hit the oil tanker Mercer Street on Thursday night, a ship operated by Zodiac Maritime, a company owned by Israeli tycoon Eyal Ofer, killing a British and Romanian national.

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IDF Chief of the General Staff LTG Aviv Kochavi spoke on Monday with CENTCOM commander General Frank McKenzie. The two discussed “recent regional events and cooperation between both countries,” the IDF stated.

CENTCOM stated that the two generals “shared their perspectives on the region’s dynamic security environment, and opportunities for future cooperation.”

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) is responsible for the Middle East, including Iran.

Kochavi spoke on Sunday with his British counterpart, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Sir Nick Carter and discussed “recent events in the region and common challenges faced by both countries.”

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met on Monday in Washington with Israeli National Security Advisor Dr. Eyal Hulata.

They discussed “working together to strengthen all aspects of the US-Israel partnership” and the upcoming visit to Washington by Prime Minister Bennett, who is expected to visit the White House in the coming weeks.

The White House stated that they discussed “the strategic challenges in the region, including the threat posed by Iran, and agreed to consult closely on these issues.”

They also exchanged views about “the opportunities in the region, including advancing the normalization of relations between Israel and countries in the Arab and Muslim world.”

Israel, the US, the United Kingdom, and Romania have all blamed Iran for the attack on the ship.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Monday that the US is “in very close contact, in coordination, with the United Kingdom, Israel, Romania and other countries. And there will be a collective response” to Iran’s attack.

Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz told the Knesset plenum on Monday that hundreds of Iranian UAVs are spread across the Middle East and Israel will respond to the attack “at the time and place and in the ways” that benefit the security of Israel.

Gantz further warned that “Iran under the murderous ‘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. We will work to remove any such threat.”

“Iranian aggression in the region, and in the naval arena in particular, is worsening. In the past year there have been no less than five Iranian hits on international ships,” he noted

“Iran not only strives to gain nuclear capabilities, but it is also sparking a dangerous arms race and sowing instability in the Middle East via terrorist militias armed with hundreds of UAVs, in Iran, Yemen, Iraq and other countries. Israel has a variety of tools and options to protect its citizens, and we will contend with anyone who threatens to hurt us, at the time and place and in the ways that benefit the security of the State of Israel,” he stated.

Gantz added that Iran’s aggression “is not just an Israeli matter, 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.”

Israel may respond militarily with an attack on an Iranian target.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry rejected the “baseless” allegations about Iran’s involvement in an attack on an Israeli ship as “provocative” and “deeply regretting”, and warned them that it “would not hesitate to give an immediate and powerful response to any hostile action.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran does not hesitate in protecting its security and national interests and will respond to any possible adventurous move immediately powerfully and seriously,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh stated.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.