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Iranian forces seize Israel-linked ship near Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions



Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has confirmed seizing a container ship belonging to an Israeli businessman near the Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions between the arch-foes.

The ship named MSC Aries was seized by the marine unit of the IRGC in a special heliborne operation, state-run news agency IRNA reported on Saturday, confirming earlier reports.

The report said the Portuguese-flagged ship has been directed towards the territorial waters of Iran.

Earlier, Israel's Channel 14 and Times of Israel reported that the seized vessel belongs to Zodiac Maritime shipping company owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), in a statement, said a ship has been seized in the area, noting that vessels are “advised to transit with caution and report any suspicious activity to UKMTO."

The incident comes amid heightened tensions in the region and speculation about Iran’s imminent military strike against Iran in response to an attack on the Iranian consulate in Syria earlier this month.

At least 13 people were killed in the attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, including seven Iranian military advisors, which Iranian authorities blamed on Israel.

Among those killed included Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria and Lebanon, and his deputy Gen. Hadi Haj Rahemi.

After the attack, top Iranian and military leaders warned of a “decisive response”, with some speculating on Friday that the retaliatory strike would come in less than 48 hours.

Addressing a gathering on Eid al-Fitr in Tehran on Wednesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei renewed the threat of retaliation, saying Israel “will be punished” for the attack.

“The evil regime made a mistake in this case and it must be punished and it will be punished,” he said.

In response, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Tel Aviv will respond if Iran attacks from its territory.

In the past few days, many foreign officials have spoken to Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, urging restraint, but Iranian authorities have warned that all options are on the table.

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