Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seizes Israeli-linked container ship near Strait of Hormuz: Reports

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) rappelled down from a helicopter onto an Israeli-linked containership near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the ship Saturday, reports confirm.

IRGC members seized the cargo ship around noon local time Saturday, Tasnim News Agency, an Iranian outlet associated with the IRGC, reported.

“Sources have reported that the vessel is the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime,” according to Tasnim News Agency. “Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group.”

Zodiac declined to comment and referred questions to MSC, when The Associated Press reached out. MSC did not immediately respond.

A Middle East defense official, who spoke to The AP on the condition of anonymity, shared a video of the attack where commandos can be seen rappelling off a helicopter, down onto a stack of containers on the ship.

A crew member can be heard saying “Don’t come out” and then telling his colleagues to go to the ship’s bridge as more IRGC members were coming on to the deck.

The details aligned with information known about the MSC Aries, according to The AP. The helicopter appeared to be a Soviet-era Mil Mi-17 helicopter, which the IRGC has used before to conduct ship raids.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations reported the recent incident and said British military officials are investigating. The agency has asked vessels in the area to “transit with caution and report any suspicious activity.”

The MSC Aries had last been located in Dubai Friday and heading toward the Strait of Hormuz. The ship turned off its location data, which is not uncommon from Israeli ships in the region, The AP noted.

The incident comes as Israel has been bracing for an attack from Iran. Western intelligence assessed that Israel was preparing for a major attack from Iran in response to an April 1 attack on its embassy in Syria. The suspected Israeli attack killed seven Iranian military advisers, including three senior IRGC members.

U.S. officials have sounded the alarm this week that a large retaliatory attack could be coming. Americans have been told to avoid travel, U.S. troops have been moved to new positions in the Middle East and tensions have risen as concerns of a greater regional war continue.

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