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Israel accuses Iran of ‘environmental terrorism’ for oil spill off its shores

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Israel accused Iran on Wednesday of being linked to a recent oil spill off its shores that caused major ecological damage, calling the incident environmental terrorism.

The spill was caused by an oil tanker that was carrying pirated cargo from Iran to Syria last month, Israeli Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said.

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The vessel sailed through the Gulf and the Red Sea without radio contact, switching its tracking devices back on before passing through Egypt’s Suez Canal, Gamliel told reporters.

It turned the devices off again before entering Israeli waters in the eastern Mediterranean, and dropped oil into the sea between Feb. 1-2, she said, naming the vessel as the Panama-flagged oil tanker Emerald.

“Iran is (conducting) terrorism by damaging the environment, and (when) Iran is damaging the environment it isn’t just hurting the state of Israel,” Gamliel said.

There was no immediate comment from Iran.

The accusation is the second in a week in which Israel has blamed its long-time enemy Iran of wrongdoing at sea.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Tehran for an explosion aboard an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman last week, an accusation rejected by Tehran.

Tensions have risen in the Gulf region since the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers.