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Iran is pointed out by Israel and western allies as responsible for the July 29 attack on a ship with Israeli ties off the coast of Oman. The attack on the oil tanker Mercer Street killed two foreign crewmen, a British citizen and a Romanian citizen. The vessel is partially owned by a company belonging to an Israeli businessman.
A US official told The Associated Press it appeared that a so-called “suicide drone” was used in the attack.
The use of suicide drones by Iran is not new. In January Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard conducted a drill that saw suicide drones crash into targets and explode. These triangle-shaped aircraft strongly resembled those used in a 2019 attack in Saudi Arabia that temporarily cut the kingdom’s oil production by half, according to defensenews.com.
Bomb-carrying drones are sometimes referred to as “loitering munitions.” The drone flies to a destination, likely programmed before its flight, and either explodes in the air over the target or on impact against it.
Also in January, Iran reportedly sent deadly drones to its allies in Yemen. Imagery indicated the presence of Iranian Shahed-136 loitering munitions, also called “suicide drones,” deployed to the northern Yemeni province of Al-Jawf, an area of the country controlled by the Houthi rebel movement, newsweek.com reported at the time.
During the Wall Guardian Operation in Gaza in May 2021, Hamas deployed a new suicide drone that was similar to an Iranian Ababil-T. Hamas drones have ranges of 150 km to 200 km and can carry payloads weighing up to 30 kg, according to a publication by usip.org.