Photo Credit: Tasnim News Agency
The Iranian Shahed-136 kamikaze drone, displayed during an exhibition of the capabilities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force, on May 16, 2023 in Qom.

A combat drone believed to have been fired directly from Iran struck the Merchant Vessel Chem Pluto, an Israeli-linked chemical/oil products tanker off the coast of India on Saturday, according to a report broadcast on Israel’s Channel 12 News.

The tanker is owned by Rio Brillante SA, based in Panama, and operated by Fleet Management Ltd., based in Wilton, Connecticut.


The Israeli connection is not clear.

The attack, which started a fire on the vessel, took place some 200 nautical miles southwest of Veraval, India, according to Reuters, quoting the British Ambrey maritime security firm. Some “structural damage was also reported and some water was taken onboard” the firm said.

“Merchant vessels are advised these types of attacks are typically targeted at Israel-affiliated shipping, but have in the past mistakenly hit previously Israel-affiliated vessels,” Ambrey said. “This event fell within Ambrey’s Iranian UAV heightened threat area.”

This is the first such known attack so far away from the Red Sea since the start of the war against Israel launched by Iranian-backed Hamas on October 7th.

The vessel was reportedly carrying crude oil from a port in Saudi Arabia, and was sailing towards Mangalore in southern India at the time of the attack. It was rescued by the Indian Coast Guard ship ICGS Vikram, which will escort the vessel, expected to reach Mumbai by Monday (Dec. 25).

The fire was extinguished but affected the functioning of the tanker, which was sailing under the flag of Liberia, according to The Economic Times.

All crew members, including about 20 people from India, were said to be safe, according to the report.

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have been attacking Israeli-linked vessels — and others — sailing in the Red Sea since the start of the war on October 7th. At least seven major shipping firms have suspended Red Sea transit operations over the past several weeks due to the attacks.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Muslim nations to block the delivery of fuel and other essential products to Israel. Speaking at a meeting in Tehran on Friday with Iranian officials, Khamenei urged Muslims to “demand from their regimes to stop assistance to Israel and break ties with it.”

The Iranian leader also reiterated his belief that Israel will eventually be annihilated.

“God willing, this promise is one of the certainties of the future. Young people, see that day with your own eyes. With God’s help and strength, and with God’s permission and glory, this will happen, and God willing, I hope that you the youth will see that day with your own eyes,” he said.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.