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Iranian paramilitary troops seize Portuguese ship with Israeli ties as tensions remain high

Iranian paramilitary Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) forces have seized a Portuguese-flagged ship owned by an Israeli billionaire, as tensions between the two countries remain high amid continued threats of attack.

“UKMTO has received reports that an incident has occurred north-east of Fujairah in the UAE,” the UK Maritime Trade Operations Agency reported. “The vessel has been reported to have been seized by local authorities. Vessels are advised to proceed with caution and to report any suspicious activity to the UKMTO.”

Iranian helicopters dropped Revolutionary Guard troops onto the deck of the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz. Video taken by the crew shows the unit rappelling onto a stack of containers as the crew member tells a colleague to “come out.”

He then tells other crew members to go to the ship’s bridge while IRGC commandos prepare to capture the ship, and as more troops descend, the people on the ship try to resist. If you do, one unit will kneel on top of the container to provide potential cover fire. To the deck.

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The Associated Press suggests the helicopter may be a Soviet-era Mil Mi-17 helicopter, which both the Revolutionary Guards and Iran-backed Houthis have used to attack ships in the Red Sea, Sea of ​​Oman, and Persian Gulf. I’ve been using this helicopter to.

Video shows Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (AP)

Geneva-based MSC reported that the ship had 25 crew members on board, and Iran’s state-run IRNA said the Revolutionary Guards were moving the ship into Iranian territorial waters.

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The seizure follows a week of heightened tensions between Iran and Israel. The Iranian government has repeatedly vowed to retaliate for the attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which many, including the United States, have blamed on Israel, although no Israeli official has acknowledged responsibility for the attack. are doing.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards displaying missiles

Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) military personnel as Iran’s Khyber surface-to-surface missile is unveiled during Ela Bait Al-Mogaddas (Al-Aqsa Mosque) military rally in Tehran, Iran. Walking along Enherab (Revolutionary) Boulevard. The Revolutionary Guards unveiled two new missiles during the rally. (Morteza Nicobazul/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

President Biden said Friday he believed an Iranian response could happen “sooner rather than later,” and the United States moved some assets closer to Israel in preparation for a possible weekend attack on Iran. Gen. Michael Kurilla, the commander of U.S. Central Command, also brought forward his visit to Israel in the face of the growing threat from Iran over the past week.

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The Revolutionary Guards have attempted to take control of the Persian Gulf before. In 2020, a large number of small patrol boats attacked U.S. Navy ships and attempted to use its own ships to drive them out of the Gulf.

Raishi IRGC Salami

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (right) spoke while standing next to Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Commander Hossein Salami (left) and Islamic Republic of Iran Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri. , April 18, 2023, during a military parade celebrating Iranian Army Day near Imam Khomeini Mausoleum in southern Tehran. Raisi said that if Israel takes “the slightest action” against Iran, we will destroy Haifa and Tel Aviv. (Morteza Nicobazul/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Revolutionary Guards have also seized a number of ships in the Gulf, including a Hong Kong-flagged oil tanker in 2020 near the Strait of Hormuz, which lies between the Persian Gulf and the Sea of ​​Oman. The ship was later released, Radio Free Europe reported.

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Yemen-based Houthis step up attacks on ships across the Red Sea, claiming the vessels have ties to Israel and are helping support Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip, and Iran eases its maritime activities did.

Iranian authorities typically offer some explanation for the seizure of ships, but so far they have not offered any regarding the MSC Aries other than mentioning its links to Israel, the Associated Press reported.

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