Iran Seizes Cargo Ship Linked to Israeli Billionaire

AP Photo
AP Photo

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized an Israeli-affiliated shipping vessel on Saturday, amid mounting tensions between the two countries—and threats of military action—after a deadly missile strike on Iran’s embassy in Syria.

Operatives of the Iranian paramilitary group rappelled onto the container ship MSC Aries as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz, according to IRNA, a state media outlet in Iran. The ship was then directed into Iranian waters.

The Portuguese-flagged vessel is operated by Zodiac Maritime, a shipping company owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer. Forbes estimates that Ofer is worth $24.8 billion.

Following the seizure, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Iran was committing piracy, and called on the international community to declare the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Iran “is a criminal regime that supports Hamas’ crimes and is now conducting a pirate operation in violation of international law,” Katz said.

Iran Tells Israel Its Embassies Aren’t Safe After Syrian Consulate Strike

Israel has been bracing for an imminent attack ever since Iran vowed it would retaliate after a deadly missile strike on its embassy in Syria earlier this month. A top commander in Iran’s Quds Force, Mohammed Reza Zahedi, was said to be among a group of seven Iranians killed in the blast.

Iran claims Israel is responsible for the attack. On Friday, it was reported that top Pentagon officials had expressed frustration that Israel did not give them a heads-up on their plans to strike the Iranian consulate.

Saturday’s attack on the vessel comes after predictions that Iran would hit Israel through proxy forces in the region, as opposed to launching a direct attack. On Friday, U.S. embassy personnel in Israel were warned of the likelihood of an attack in the coming 48 hours, and advised to limit their travel outside of Tel Aviv.

President Biden pledged that the U.S. would support Israel in its conflict with Iran, according to the Associated Press. “We are devoted to the defense of Israel,” he said. “We will support Israel, we will help defend Israel and Iran will not succeed.”

Tensions between the two nations have only continued to rise throughout Israel's brutal military campaign in Gaza, which has killed over 33,000 people according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health. Iran has, until this point, been apprehensive to attack Israel directly. Meanwhile, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, have made multiple attacks against Israeli vessels in the Red Sea since October.

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