13 Apr 2024

Tensions Surge as Iran Seizes Ship Allegedly Linked to Israel

Iran's Revolutionary Guards captured a container ship in the Gulf allegedly linked to Israel, heightening tensions in the region, State media reported on Saturday. Israel's military cautioned Iran about the repercussions of escalating the conflict in the area, following Iran's announcement of the ship's seizure.

In a statement, Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari warned that Iran would face repercussions if it continued to escalate the situation.

"We caution Iran against exacerbating the situation," stated Hagari, underscoring Israel's stance.

The vessel in question, identified as the 'MCS Aries', was reportedly intercepted by Iranian Special Forces near the vital Strait of Hormuz and redirected toward Iranian territorial waters, according to IRNA.

This development follows earlier reports of a vessel being seized by "regional authorities" off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Ambrey, a security firm, reported having viewed static images capturing the descent of at least three individuals from a helicopter onto a vessel resembling a container ship.

According to Ambrey, Iran's Revolutionary Guards have employed similar boarding tactics in previous incidents of vessel seizure within the Strait of Hormuz.

Vessel tracking websites, and, say MSC Aries is a Portuguese-flagged container ship. Both sites give its last reported position as in the Gulf.

On Friday, the United States announced plans to deploy additional military forces to the area in response to Iran's pledge to retaliate for a recent deadly attack on its Damascus embassy's consular section in Syria. 

President Joe Biden has warned that Iran would target its longtime rival Israel. Iran has accused Israel of orchestrating the April 1 strike that killed at least seven members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, including two generals.

The surging tensions come against the backdrop of the six-month war waged by Israel against Iran-backed Hamas Palestinian militants in Gaza.

The conflict has since drawn in regional actors including Iran-backed groups in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels have carried out dozens of missile and drone attacks against shipping in the Red Sea area, and in November seized an Israel-linked cargo vessel, the Galaxy Leader. The crew are still being held.

Tehran has supported Hamas, but repeatedly denied direct involvement in the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel that started the war.

Iran in January seized a ship off the coast of Oman in retaliation for what it described as American "theft" of its oil from the same tanker.

Iran's navy had boarded the Greek-owned St Nikolas before later releasing the crew members.

Much of the world's oil which is shipped by sea passes through the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran said the latest incident occurred.

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