Israel Will Not 'Hesitate' to Stop Iran From Developing Nuclear Weapons: Defense Minister

Israel's defense minister said his country will not "hesitate" to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons and accused it of being responsible for a recent drone attack on an oil tanker that killed two people, the Associated Press reported.

The Mercer Street tanker, managed by an Israeli billionaire's firm, was hit by a drone strike off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea on July 29, killing a Briton and a Romanian onboard.

The U.S. and Britain have accused Iran of the attack. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz claimed the drone aircraft that hit the Mercer Street "was launched from Iranian territory and approved by Iranian leadership."

Gantz said Israel "has the means to act and will not hesitate to do so. I do not rule out the possibility that Israel will have to take action in the future in order to prevent a nuclear Iran."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said his country will not "hesitate" to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Above, Gantz, attends a cabinet meeting of the new government at Chagall State Hall in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem on May 24, 2020. Abir Sultan/AFP via Getty Images

Gantz reiterated that Israel would act alone if needed to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

He spoke to foreign diplomats in a briefing as Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was visiting Washington to discuss Iran with Biden administration officials during his first state visit in Washington. Gantz's remarks were released by his office.

Although the U.S., Britain and Israel have all blamed Iran for the drone strike, no country has yet offered evidence or intelligence to support their claims. Iran has denied any wrongdoing.

Gantz, a former Israeli army chief, has previously warned that Israel is prepared to take military action against Iran and called for international action to halt Iranian aggression.

The two countries have been locked in a shadow war for years, which in recent months has taken a higher profile after a long string of attacks on merchant vessels.

The attacks began after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. President Joe Biden has said he's willing to rejoin the accord, but talks over salvaging the deal have stalled in Vienna.

Israel contends its regional archrival Iran seeks nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Gantz doubled down on those threats on Wednesday.