Photo Credit: sayyed shahab-o- din vajedi / Wikimedia Commons
Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commandos and missile boats in the general area of Strait of Hormuz, Persian Gulf, February 2015

Iranian naval commandos seized the MSC Aries, an Israeli-owned cargo vessel Saturday morning as it was transiting international waters near the Strait of Hormuz.

Twenty-five crew members were taken into custody by the commandos, members Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy. There is no word yet on their nationalities and condition.


The ship was identified by Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) as the MSC Aries, owned by the Zodiac Maritime Group, which is headed by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

According to Zodiac Maritime, the vessel is managed and operated by Swiss shipping company MSC, but the title to the ship is held by Gortal Shipping, which is affiliated with Ofer’s group.

A video posted by Iran on the X social media platform showed a helicopter operation with commandos boarding and seizing the vessel.

“Seizure of a ship related to the Zionist regime by the IRGC,” the news outlet wrote in the post. “A container ship named “MCS Aries” was seized by the SNSF marine special forces by carrying out a helicopter operation and evacuation of personnel on the ship’s deck near the Strait of Hormuz.

“This ship has now been directed towards the territorial waters of our country.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on “the European Union and the free world” to declare the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization and to impose sanctions on Iran.

“The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have seized a Portuguese civilian cargo ship, belonging to an EU member, claiming Israeli ownership,” Katz wrote in a post on the X social media platform in response to the attack.

“The Ayatollah regime of [Ali] Khamenei is a criminal regime that supports Hamas’ crimes and is now conducting a pirate operation in violation of international law.

“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 urged.

“We strongly condemn the Iranian seizure of the Portuguese flagged, British-owned MSC Aires in international waters,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrianne Watson said in a statement as well.

“The crew is comprised of Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Russian and Estonian nationals. We call on Iran to release the vessel and its international crew immediately.

“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. It must be condemned unequivocally and we will work with our partners to hold Iran to account for its actions,” Watson added.

The US State Department has already designated the IRGC as a whole as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), having done so in April 2019, during the administration of then-President Donald Trump.

In October 2007 the US Treasury Department designated the IRGC and its elite Quds Force as an FTO and designated former Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

During the final days of the Trump administration, the United States military assassinated Soleimani in a targeted drone strike on 3 January 2020 in Baghdad, Iraq.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.