update deskIsrael at War

After Iran hijacks Israeli-linked vessel, IDF warns against escalation

Israel is bracing for a major attack after the killing of an IRGC general in Syria.

Members of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps special forces unit. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Members of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps special forces unit. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval forces hijacked the Israeli-linked MSC Aries container ship close to the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz slammed Tehran for seizing the Portuguese-registered cargo vessel, which is operated by the Mediterranean Shipping Company and associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime, according to the Associated Press.

Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group.

Katz called on the European Union and the rest of the free world to immediately designate the IRGC as a terror organization and impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

“The Ayatollah regime of [Iranian Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei is a criminal regime that supports Hamas’ crimes and is now conducting a piracy operation in violation of international law,” he said.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari warned that Iran would “bear the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further.”

“Iran funds, trains and arms terror proxies across the Middle East and beyond. Iran-backed Hamas started this war on October 7th; Iran-backed Hezbollah expanded this war on October 8th; and since then, Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, and Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, have expanded this into a global conflict,” said Hagari.

“Iran is the world’s biggest state sponsor of terror. Its network of terror doesn’t just threaten the people of Israel, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria; the regime in Iran fuels the war in Ukraine and beyond,” he added.

Hagari noted that Israel remains on “high alert” and stressed the IDF has “increased our readiness to protect Israel from further Iranian aggression. We are also prepared to respond.”

Israel is bracing for a major attack following the killing of an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps general in Syria on April 1, which Tehran blamed on the Jewish state.

The IDF has not officially taken responsibility for the attack in Damascus which killed Brig. Gen. Mohammad Zahedi, but four officials told The New York Times last week that Jerusalem ordered the strike.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden said his administration was committed to backing Israel amid reports of an imminent Iranian attack.

“As I told Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, our commitment to Israel’s security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad,” said Biden.

Biden told reporters on Friday afternoon that he believes Iran will retaliate “sooner [rather] than later.” 

The president said he could not get into classified details about a potential attack. He also had a one-word message to Iran as it considers a retaliatory strike: “Don’t.”

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant “to reiterate ironclad U.S. support for Israel’s defense in the face of growing threats from Iran and its regional proxies,” according to a Pentagon readout of their call.

The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem announced on Thursday that “out of an abundance of caution,” government employees and their family members can only travel for personal reasons in the greater Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beersheva areas “until further notice.”

Also on Thursday, Netanyahu said that the Jewish state would respond in kind to any attack.

Speaking during a visit to the Tel Nof Air Base, he said, “We are in challenging times. We are in the midst of the war in Gaza, which is continuing at full force, even as we are continuing our relentless efforts to return our hostages.”

However, he continued, “we are also prepared for scenarios involving challenges in other sectors. We have determined a simple rule: Whoever harms us, we will harm them.”

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