Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Iran’s IRGC seizes ‘Israeli-linked’ ship

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran has seized a container ship near the Strait of Hormuz amid rising tensions across the region after a deadly Israeli attack on Iran’s consulate in Syria.

The ship was commandeered by Iranian armed force, that lost seven members, including two generals, in the Syria strike, Iranian state media reported on Saturday.

“The ship has now been guided towards the territorial waters of our country,” state-run IRNA reported.

The vessel was identified as the Portugal-flagged MSC Aries, which reportedly departed from a port in the United Arab Emirates en route to India. It is associated with the London-based Zodiac Maritime, a part of the Zodiac Group run by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer and his family.

Videos showed soldiers rappelling down from a helicopter. The helicopter appeared to be a Soviet-designed Mil Mi-17, which is operated by the naval forces of the IRGC.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a post on X that the move by Iran was “a pirate operation in violation of international law”.

He called on the European Union and “the free world to immediately declare” the IRGC a “terrorist organization and to sanction Iran now.”

Another Israeli-linked container ship was attacked and damaged by a drone in the Indian Ocean in late November, which the United States blamed on Iran.

Meanwhile, the US military is moving more military assets to the Middle East as it anticipates an Iranian response to the Israeli attack on the consulate in Syria.

The Wall Street Journal quoted unnamed US officials as saying on Friday that it includes repositioning two destroyers, with one of the warships already in the region and another redirected there.

US President Joe Biden said he expected an Iranian retaliation to come “sooner than later” and that Washington will continue to defend Israel.

“Don’t,” he said when asked by reporters if he had a message for Iran.

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