Iran Seizes Israel-Linked Ship in Persian Gulf

Washington slammed the seizure as an act of “piracy” and demanded the immediate release of the ship’s crew

Iranian commandos have seized a cargo vessel with reported ties to an Israeli billionaire, taking control of the ship as it sailed near the Strait of Hormuz. The incident took place amid soaring tensions between Tehran and Tel Aviv, after Israeli forces bombed an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria earlier this month.

The Portuguese-flagged container vessel, MSC Aries, was boarded by troops with the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Saturday. The seizure occurred some 50 miles off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and was confirmed by a statement from the ship’s operator, MSC. It noted that 25 crewmen were on board at the time.

Iranian state media reported that the ship was under IRGC control and being “directed back to Iranian territorial waters,” though did not specify for what purpose. The ship is reportedly owned in part by Zodiac Maritime, a company operated by Israeli-born billionaire Eyal Ofer.

A brief video clip passed to the Associated Press by an unnamed Middle Eastern official appeared to show Iranian special operators rappelling onto the ship’s deck from a helicopter.

The White House has acknowledged the incident and said President Joe Biden cut short a trip to Delaware to “consult with his national security team about events in the Middle East.” White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson later urged Tehran to “release the vessel and its international crew immediately,” noting the ship was manned by Estonian, Filipino, Indian, Pakistani, and Russian citizens.

“Seizing a civilian vessel without provocation is a blatant violation of international law, and an act of piracy by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” she added.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz similarly condemned the hijacking, calling it a “pirate operation in violation of international law” while urging for a response from allied states.

“I call on the European Union and the free world to immediately declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guards corps as a terrorist organization and to sanction Iran now,” Katz said in a statement on X.

The seizure comes weeks after Israeli forces bombed Iran’s consulate building in the Syrian capital, killing seven officials, including a senior IRGC commander. The attack triggered a major spike in regional tensions, with Iran vowing to respond in kind. Tel Aviv has since braced for retaliation, and US Central Command chief Gen. Michael Kurilla visited Israel this week to coordinate a possible response.

When asked whether Washington would directly intervene in hostilities between Israel and Iran during a Thursday press briefing, Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder declined to “get into hypotheticals,” only reiterating the US’ “ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.”

A number of foreign vessels transiting the Red Sea have been seized by Yemen’s Houthis in recent months, with the group saying the operations were a response to Israel’s months-long onslaught in Gaza. Washington has since carried out multiple bombing raids on the armed group, which governs parts of Yemen, though the White House later acknowledged the strikes were unlikely to stop similar seizures in the future.

Will Porter is assistant news editor at the Libertarian Institute and a regular contributor at Find more of his work at Consortium News and ZeroHedge.