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A helicopter raid targeting a vessel near the Strait of Hormuz (AP Photo).
tensions rising

Israel closes schools nationwide amid growing fears of attack from Iran

The Israeli army has warned that Iran will bear the ‘consequences’ of any escalation.


ISRAEL IS CLOSING schools nationwide over security concerns, military spokesman Daniel Hagari said today, after Iran threatened to retaliate for a deadly air strike on its Damascus consulate.

There will be “no educational activities” when the school week begins on Sunday “in light of the security situation,” he said in a televised statement.

The measure is set to last two days, according to online army guidelines.

Iran has vowed retaliation after the presumed Israeli strike on April 1 which levelled its consulate in Damascus, killing seven members of the Revolutionary Guards including two generals.

US President Joe Biden said yesterday that he expected Iran to retaliate “sooner (rather) than later”.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz postponed a planned visit to Hungary and Austria which had been scheduled to begin on Sunday “due to the security situation,” his spokesman said.

Iran’s Revolutionary guards earlier today seized a container ship “related” to Israel in the Gulf, the state’s media reported.

Iran will suffer the “consequences” of escalating the conflict in the region, Israel’s army warned today after the seizure.

“Iran will bear the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a statement.

Iranian state news agency reported this morning that the container ship named ‘MCS Aries’ was seized by its Sepah Navy Special Forces during a heliborne operation

There were 25 crew members on board the ship, according to Italian-Swiss Shipping group MSC, also known as Mediterranean Shipping Company.

“We regret to confirm that MSC Aries… has been boarded by Iranian authorities via helicopter as she passed the Strait of Hormuz,” the group said in a statement.

“She has 25 crew onboard, and we are working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure their wellbeing, and safe return of the vessel.”

Video has showed the attack earlier reported by the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations. It described the vessel as being “seized by regional authorities” in the Gulf of Oman, off the Emirati port city of Fujairah.

In the footage, commandos drop on to a stack of containers on the deck of the vessel.

A crew member can be heard saying: “Don’t come out,” and tells colleagues to go to the ship’s bridge as more commandos come down on the deck. One commando can be seen kneeling above the others to provide potential covering fire.

The footage corresponds to known details of the boarding and the helicopter involved appears to be one used by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which has carried out other ship raids in the past.

The vessel involved is likely to be the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime, which is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group.

The MSC Aries had last been located off Dubai heading towards the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. The ship had turned off its tracking data, which has been common for Israeli-affiliated ships moving through the region.

The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West, particularly after a suspected Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria.

Iran since 2019 has engaged in a series of ship seizures and had attacks on vessels attributed to it amid tensions with the West over its nuclear programme.

The Gulf of Oman is near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all oil passes.

Fujairah, on the United Arab Emirates’ eastern coast, is a main port for ships to take on new oil cargo, pick up supplies or trade out crew.

Since 2019, the waters off Fujairah have seen a series of explosions and hijackings. The US Navy blamed Iran for limpet mine attacks on vessels that damaged tankers.

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