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Vessel seized in Strait of Hormuz amid Iran tensions

file photo: energy traders, shippers grapple with red sea fallout
Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi group has disrupted global trade with attacks on shipping in the Red Sea for months, saying it is aiming at Israel-linked vessels in retaliation for Israel's campaign in Gaza

A vessel has been seized by “regional authorities” between the United Arab Emirates and Iran, maritime security agencies said on Saturday, days after Iran warned it could close the area to sea traffic.

UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said the vessel had been seized 50 nautical miles (92 km) northeast of the Fujairah, an area close to the Strait of Hormuz that forms the entrance to the Gulf.

A British maritime security company, Ambrey, reported a “boarding” incident at the same location but without giving further details.

Marine tracking sites said the vessel was the MSC Aries of Zodiac Maritime, an international shipping company partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

Reuters could not immediately confirm that and UKMTO said it could not provide more information when asked if the regional authorities were Iran and if the seized vessel was MSC Aries.

Zodiac Maritime did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Iranian authorities did not immediately issue any public statement on the incident.

A U.S. defence official said “we are aware of the situation reported by UKMTO and we are monitoring it” but would not confirm or deny the name of the vessel when asked if it was the MSC Aries.

On Tuesday the naval head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Alireza Tangsiri said it could close the Strait of Hormuz if deemed necessary.

He said Iran viewed as a threat Israel’s presence in the UAE, with which Israel established diplomatic relations in 2020 as part of the ‘Abraham Accords’ mediated by the United States.

Regional tensions have risen since the start of Israel’s campaign in Gaza in October, with Israel and its ally the United States clashing repeatedly with Iranian-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Iran has threatened to retaliate for suspected Israeli airstrikes on its consulate in Syria’s capital Damascus on April 1 that killed seven Revolutionary Guards officers including two senior commanders.

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday he expected Iran to attack Israel “sooner, rather than later” and warned Tehran not to proceed.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi group has disrupted global trade with attacks on shipping in the Red Sea for months, saying it is aiming at Israel-linked vessels in retaliation for Israel’s campaign in Gaza.

The United States and Britain have carried out strikes against Houthi targets in response to the attacks on shipping.

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