Iranian paramilitaries seize container ship near Strait of Hormuz amid Israel tensions

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Iranian paramilitary forces seized a container ship near the Strait of Hormuz that the country’s state-run media said is “linked to Israel.”

A video shows commandos repelling down from a helicopter onto the MSC Aries, a Portugal-flagged ship carrying 25 crew members. In a Saturday statement, MSC confirmed Iranian authorities boarded the vessel and that “she has since been diverted from her itinerary towards Iran.”

The seizure by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps comes at a high point of tensions in the Middle East, as Iran has been expected to retaliate against Israel this weekend following Israel’s killing of Iranian paramilitary leaders in Syria. For days, senior Biden administration officials have been working with foreign counterparts to persuade Iran against a massive attack. The growing consensus was that Iran had calibrated its plans to hurt Israel but not drag other nations, including the United States, into a broader regional war.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, released a one-minute video response to the Iranian capture of the ship. “Iran will bear the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further,” he said. “We have increased our readiness to protect Israel from further Iranian aggression. We are also prepared to respond.”

In remarks during a Friday event at the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden said he had expected an Iranian retaliation “sooner than later,” issuing a one-word warning for the country: “Don’t.”

“We are devoted to the defense of Israel. We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel.  And Iran will not succeed,” Biden added.