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Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seizes a container ship near Strait of Hormuz amid tensions with West

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DUBAI: Commandos from Iran‘s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled down from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel Saturday, the latest in a series of attacks between the two countries.
The Middle East had braced for potential Iranian retaliation over a suspected Israeli strike earlier this month on an Iranian consular building in Syria that killed 12 people, including a senior Guard general who once commanded its expeditionary Quds Force.
The wider Israeli war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip is now 6 months old and is inflaming decades-old tensions across the whole region.
Iran’s state-run IRNA said a special forces unit of the Guard’s navy carried out the attack on the vessel, which other media in the country widely identified as the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime.
Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. Zodiac declined to comment and referred questions to MSC, which did not immediately respond.
Earlier, a Middle East defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, shared a video of the attack with The Associated Press. In it, the commandos are seen rappelling down onto a stack of containers sitting on the deck of the vessel.
A crew member on the ship can be heard saying: “Don’t come out.” He then tells his colleagues to go to the ship’s bridge as more commandos come down on the deck. One commando can be seen kneeling above the others to provide them potential cover fire.
The video corresponded with known details of the MSC Aries. The helicopter used also appeared to be a Soviet-era Mil Mi-17 helicopter, which both the Guard and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels of Yemen have used in the past to conduct commando raids on ships.
The British military‘s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations described the vessel as being “seized by regional authorities” in the Gulf of Oman off the Emirati port city of Fujairah, without elaborating.
The MSC Aries had been last located off Dubai heading toward the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. The ship had turned off its tracking data, which has been common for Israeli-affiliated ships moving through the region.
Iran since 2019 has engaged in a series of ship seizures and attacks on vessels have been attributed to it amid ongoing tensions with the West over its rapidly advancing nuclear program.
The Gulf of Oman is near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all globally traded oil passes. Fujairah, on the United Arab Emirates’ eastern coast, is a main port in the region for ships to take on new oil cargo, pick up supplies or trade out crew.
Since 2019, the waters off Fujairah have seen a series of explosions and hijackings. The US Navy blamed Iran for limpet mine attacks on vessels that damaged tankers.

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