Iran Seizes Israeli-Linked Ship

Iran reportedly seized a merchant vessel with ties to an Israeli businessman this weekend, just hours before launching a large missile and drone attack on Israel on Saturday. Iran said that the seizure was not linked to its wider attack, but the timing appears to indicate that the incident was not isolated.

The MSC Aries was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Israel struck a building next to the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria earlier this month, killing several IRGC leaders. Washington considers the IRGC a terrorist organization.

Video footage showed the Iranian forces seizing the vessel and the crew. The ship is flagged by Portugal and is operated by a British company owned by an Israeli businessman. The crew of about 25 were taken prisoner after the seizure in the Persian Gulf.

The vessel was headed near the Strait of Hormuz, where much of the world’s oil travels through.

“The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have seized a Portuguese civilian cargo ship, belonging to an EU member, claiming Israeli ownership,” said Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz.

The Ayatollah regime of…is a criminal regime that supports Hamas’ crimes and is now conducting a pirate operation in violation of international law,” he said.

The IRGC then directed the vessel back toward Iranian waters. The seizure was condemned by the Israeli government.

The taking of the ship is not the first time that Iran or its allies have attacked Israeli shipping. Last year Houthi rebels seized a vessel near the Red Sea tied to another Israeli businessman and took the crew of 25 hostage.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen have launched a series of drone and missile attacks on international shipping near the Red Sea since the start of the conflict between Israel and Hamas last October.

Just hours after the vessel was seized the Iranian government launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel for the first time ever. Most of the projectiles were shot down before hitting Israel.