An oil tanker off Syria's Mediterranean port of Banias has been hit with an explosion Sunday, resulting in a fire on board which was reportedly extinguished soon after.
There were reportedly no casualties, but subsequent photographs showed large plumes of black smoke rising above the tanker, which may have been engaged in offloading its cargo. The 'mystery' blast comes after a series of alleged Israeli covert attacks against both Iranian and Syrian ships believed engaged in "sanctions-busting" activity related to Washington-led anti-Assad measures.
Breaking: large explosion reported at a vessel anchored off the coast of Syria's Baniyas. pic.twitter.com/foiqMnqncA— Within Syria (@WithinSyriaBlog) May 9, 2021
However, Syrian state media was quick to call it a "technical fault" which "took place in one of the engines of the oil tanker near the coast," according to the description.
Journalist and Syria analyst Danny Makki quipped in the wake of the incident, "This comes amid a sharp and unexpected rise in engine malfunctions in ships near the Syrian coast" - strongly suggesting that it appears anything but a mere engine accident.
Reuters reviews some of the latest incidents involving oil tankers off Syria's coast as follows:
Local radio station FM Sham earlier said an explosion had hit a tanker during maintenance works after it had caught fire a few days earlier while offloading its oil cargo.
Last month, Syria’s oil ministry said firefighters put out a fire on an oil tanker off the Banias refinery after a suspected attack by a drone coming from the direction of Lebanese waters.
The oil tanker was widely reported as being empty of its cargo at the time of the blast and fire.
Due the increased frequency of Israeli attacks on Syria as well as Iranian and Syrian vessels, which also in recent months have occurred in the Red Sea, a number of online commentators were quick to speculate this new tanker incident was the result of a drone or other aircraft attack...
REPORTS: UK-US-EU-armed drone attack on oil tanker off the coast near a Russian base and by one of Syria's largest oil refineries at Baniyas, threatening a Mediterranean oil spill.— Afshin Rattansi (@afshinrattansi) May 9, 2021
Follows a fire at a distillation unit of Homs' main oil refinery. pic.twitter.com/kfjgcz5dMq
This comes after a separate mystery incident being simultaneously reported at a distillation unit at Homs Oil Refinery, though there's little that's been verified at this point.