The maritime special forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the ideological army of the Islamic Republic, seized a container ship “linked” to Israel in the Gulf, the official IRNA agency announced on Saturday April 13. This seizure took place during “an operation carried out with a helicopter near the Strait of Hormuz,” said IRNA, adding that the ship “flying the Portuguese flag and managed by the company Zodiac, which belongs to the Zionist capitalist Eyal Ofer,” was being “directed toward Iranian territorial waters.” “There are twenty-five crew members on board,” Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), which charters the ship, communicated to Agence France-Presse.

British security company Ambrey added that the Revolutionary Guards “have already used this method of boarding when seizing ships in the Strait of Hormuz”, the only crossing point for exports from several major producers in the Middle East. -East.

Iran, a “criminal regime” for Israel

Iran “will suffer the consequences of its choice to further aggravate the situation”, warned the Israeli army, while the country is on alert in the face of threats of reprisals from Tehran, ally of Hamas. “We have strengthened our preparation to protect Israel from further Iranian aggression. We are also ready to respond,” added Daniel Hagari, a spokesperson for the Israeli army. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on countries to list the Guard as a terrorist organization and said Iran “is a criminal regime that supports the crimes of Hamas and is currently carrying out a pirate operation in violation of international law”, on X.

Before the Iranian claim, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Authority (UKMTO) wrote that the seizure of the vessel by “regional authorities” took place 50 nautical miles (92 kilometers) northeast of Foujeyra, in the Arab Emirates United.

Also, a Middle Eastern defense official, on condition of anonymity, provided the Associated Press (AP) with a video of the attack. The news agency saw the Iranian commandos rappel down a pile of containers on the deck of the ship. AP heard a member of the ship’s crew say: “Don’t go out. » He then asked his colleagues to go to the deck of the ship while other commandos came down to the deck. The video matches known information about the MSC Aries. According to AP, the helicopter used also appears to be a Soviet-era Mil Mi-17, which Yemen’s Iran-backed Guard and Houthis have used in the past to conduct commando raids on ships. .

Tensions accrues

Contacted by the Associated Press, Zodiac declined to comment and referred questions to MSC, which did not immediately respond. The MSC Aries was last located off the coast of Dubai on Friday, heading towards the Strait of Hormuz. The ship had its tracking data disabled, which is common for Israeli-affiliated vessels passing through the region.

This incident comes against a backdrop of increased tensions between Iran and the West, particularly after an attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1, which Iran attributes to the Jewish state.

The Houthis, supported by Iran, have been attacking ships in the Red Sea for months, thus affirming their support for Hamas engaged in the war in Gaza. The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Navy said on Tuesday that Israel’s presence in the United Arab Emirates was considered a threat by Tehran and that it could close the Strait of Hormuz – at the entrance to the Gulf – if deemed necessary. Foujeyra is located on the eastern shore of the Strait of Hormuz.

Fears of a conflagration

Houthi attacks in the Red Sea are disrupting global shipping, forcing companies to choose longer and more expensive journeys bypassing southern Africa. They also fuel fears of an extension of the war between Israel and Hamas throughout the Middle East. The United States and the United Kingdom carried out strikes against Houthi targets in response to the attacks on the ships.

German national carrier Lufthansa said on Saturday it had extended the suspension of its flights between Frankfurt and Tehran until Thursday and that all its planes would avoid Iranian airspace during this period. Dutch airline KLM said in a statement Saturday that it would no longer fly over Iran or Israel, but would continue flights to and from Tel Aviv, a destination that is not considered risky at present. actual hour.

Fears of a regional conflagration pushed the Netherlands on Saturday to close, “as a precaution”, their embassy in Iran as well as their consulate in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan. Several countries including France, Germany and the United States have also reiterated their calls on their nationals not to travel to Iran.