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Biden Administration Urges Iran to Immediately Release Israeli-Linked Cargo Ship and Crew

President Joe Biden (Credits: ABC News)

The Biden administration is urging Iran to release an Israeli-linked cargo ship and its crew “without delay” following its seizure in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday. “We strongly condemn Iran’s seizure of the Portuguese-flagged, British-owned MSC AIRES in international waters,” stated Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the National Security Council, in a post on social media platform X.

The crew on board comprises individuals from India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Russia, and Estonia, according to Watson. “We call on Iran to release the vessel & its international crew immediately,” her post emphasized.

The White House announced on Saturday that President Biden would be returning from his Delaware home to the White House to “consult with his national security team” regarding the revealing events in the Middle East.

President Joe Biden (Credits: Politico)

According to Tasmin News Agency, an Iranian outlet associated with the IRGC, members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) rappelled down from a helicopter onto the ship on Saturday around noon local time.

The Associated Press Obtained Video Footage of the Attack

The vessel in question is the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime. The latter is part of the Zodiac Group, owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

While the IRGC operates independently of Iran’s traditional army, it functions as a armed forces branch. The IRGC has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

Video footage obtained by The Associated Press captured the attack, showing commandos rappelling down onto a stack of containers on the ship. A crew member can be heard cautioning others not to exit and instructing them to head to the vessel’s bridge.

“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,” stated Watson in another post.

Watson emphasized that such actions “must be condemned unequivocally,” and the United States will collaborate with its partners to “hold Iran to account for its actions.”

President Joe Biden (Credits: The Washington Post)

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations reported the recent incident and stated that British military officials are investigating. It has requested ships in the area to “transit with caution and report any suspicious activity.”

The MSC Aries was last traced to Dubai on Friday, heading towards the strait. The AP highlighted that the vessel’s location tracking data was turned off, a practice not uncommon for Israeli ships in the region.

This vessel seizure occurs despite Israel’s preparations for a potential major attack from Iran. Western intelligence and U.S. officials have indicated that Israel was gearing up for a retaliatory strike after targeting Iran’s embassy in Syria, resulting in the deaths of seven military advisers and three senior IRGC members.

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