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13 Apr, 2024 13:30

Iran seizes Israeli-run container ship (VIDEO)

The seizure came after Tehran promised to deal Israel a “slap in the face”
Iran seizes Israeli-run container ship (VIDEO)

Iranian commandos have stormed an Israeli-operated container ship in the Persian Gulf and taken control of the vessel. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz condemned the “pirate operation” and called on the West to impose sanctions on Tehran.

The MSC Aries was boarded by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy troops as it transited the Strait of Hormuz around noon on Saturday. Once under the IRGC’s control, it was taken to Iranian territorial waters, Iranian state media reported.

Video footage shared online showed IRGC commandos rappelling onto the deck of the ship from a helicopter.

The Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries is operated by Zodiac Maritime, a shipping firm owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer. At the time of the seizure, it was sailing past the Emirati port of Fujairah with its transponder switched off, the Associated Press reported. With Iran controlling the Strait of Hormuz and Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacking Israeli shipping interests in the Red Sea, it is standard practice for Israeli-linked vessels to disable their tracking data when sailing in the region.

Since 2019, Iran has periodically seized Israeli and Western vessels in the Strait of Hormuz during times of increased tension. Tehran typically offers legal justification for these seizures, but gave no such explanation on Saturday.

However, Saturday’s seizure came two weeks after an alleged Israeli airstrike on an Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital of Damascus. The strike killed seven officers of the IRGC’s Quds Force, including two generals. 

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to deal Israel a “slap in the face” in response, and American officials warned on Friday that Tehran could be gearing up for a massive drone and missile strike on Israeli soil over the weekend. It is unclear whether Iran plans further attacks after seizing the MSC Aries.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz condemned the seizure, accusing Khamenei’s “criminal regime” of “conducting a pirate operation in violation of international law.”

“I call on the European Union and the free world to immediately declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guards corps as a terrorist organization and to sanction Iran now,” he wrote on X.