Iran's Tasnim news website affiliated with the IRGC published this photo, purportedly showing the seizure of the vessel.

IRGC Seizes 'Israeli-Affiliated' Cargo Ship Near Strait Of Hormuz

Saturday, 04/13/2024

Iran's Revolutionary Guard seized a cargo ship “affiliated with” Israel near the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday amid a tense situation in the region in anticipation of an Iranian attack on Israel.

According to IRNA, Iranian state news agency, IRGC's Navy Special Force took control of the Portuguese-flagged vessel after the heliborne Iranian forces landed on its deck.

The incident took place 50 nautical miles (92 km) northeast of the Fujairah, UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) announced.

Citing “some news sources,” IRGC-affiliated Tasnim news agency said the vessel, called “MSC Aries,” belongs to London-based Zodiac Maritime shipping company which is “owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.”

IRNA introduced Ofer as “the Zionist capitalist.” Last November, Yemeni Houthis aligned with and supported by the Islamic Republic, attacked vessels also partly owned by Ofer.

The Zodiac Maritime confirmed the incident in a statement, further adding that the vessel is operated by Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC).

“MSC is responsible for all vessel activities including cargo operations and maintenance. Title to the vessel is held by Gortal Shipping Inc as financier and she has been leased to MSC on a long-term basis. Gortal Shipping Inc is affiliated with Zodiac Maritime,” read the statement.

According to Reuters, Ofer “partly” owns the Zodiac Maritime.

The recent move by the IRGC comes against the backdrop of ongoing escalation in the region as Iranian officials constantly vow retaliation for the deaths of top IRGC generals in an Israeli precision missile strike in Damascus on April 1.

Despite the harsh anti-Israeli rhetoric by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other senior figures of the Islamic Republic, the IRGC had not made any concrete moves to carry out such threats before today’s takeover of the ship.

Meanwhile, defense journalist Babak Taghvaee revealed on X that the vessel boarded by Iranian forces contacted and sought help from the European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASoH) stationed in the region, but “naval forces of the US and France decided to allow the IRGC capture it” and “no one helped” the cargo ship.

Jason Brodsky, Policy Director at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), also wrote on X that the boarding may be “part of a multi-layered response from Iran which wants to maintain attention and exhaust Israel.”

Following the incident, the Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari warned in a video message in English that “Iran will bear the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further.”

Calling the Iranian regime “the world’s biggest state sponsor of terror,” he stressed that Tehran’s network of terror not only threatens people in Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, but provokes conflicts in Ukraine and elsewhere.

According to Hagari, Israel and its allies are ready to take the necessary measures to protect the Israeli nation: “Israel is on high alert. We have increased our readiness to protect Israel from further Iranian aggression. We are also prepared to respond.”

CNN reported on Friday that Iran may attack Israel from inside its territory where it has been moving around such weapons as missiles and drones.

However, no major incidents took place from Friday into Saturday, giving credence to those who argue that Tehran might have adopted a mental game of attrition with Israel.

Also on Friday, US President Joe Biden confirmed that Iran’s reprisals would occur “sooner than later,” but the regime “will not succeed” as Washington is committed to Israel’s security and will help it defend itself against threats.

Follow developments on Iran International's Live coverage of ongoing tensions between Iran and Israel.

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