Iran Seizes Portuguese-Flagged Cargo Ship Linked to Israel

By Yoni Weiss

Image provided by a Mideast defense official shows a helicopter raid targeting a vessel near the Strait of Hormuz on April 13. (AP Photo)

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards captured a Portuguese-flagged cargo ship connected to Israel in the strategic Strait of Hormuz on Saturday. The seizure of the MSC Aries comes shortly after Tehran’s threats to shut down the vital maritime passage in retaliation to an Israeli airstrike on its consulate in Syria.

State media reported that the operation involved a Guards helicopter boarding the vessel and redirecting it into Iranian waters. The ship, operated by MSC and leased from Gortal Shipping — a Zodiac Maritime affiliate partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer — had 25 crew members onboard at the time of the incident.

The move heightens already strained regional tensions linked to Israel’s military actions in Gaza since Oct. 7, and repeated confrontations between Israel, the U.S., and Iranian-aligned forces across the Middle East.

President Joe Biden anticipated an imminent Iranian attack against Israel and issued a stern warning against such actions. In response to the seizure, Israel’s military spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, warned of consequences for Iran’s escalation, while Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz labeled the act as piracy.

Amid these tensions, Alireza Tangsiri, naval chief of the Revolutionary Guards, hinted at the possibility of closing the Strait of Hormuz if necessary, citing Israeli threats linked to its presence in the UAE.

Experts like Hasan Alhasan from the International Institute for Strategic Studies suggest Iran’s actions aim to project strength without provoking broader conflict, playing into global fears of potential disruptions in a critical passageway for the world’s oil and gas supplies.

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