Iran Launches Attack On Israel After Seizing ‘Israeli’ Ship


(RFE/RL) — The Israeli military late on April 13 said Iran had launched an extensive attack of drone aircraft toward Israel and that the flight time could take hours, which comes after Tehran seized an Israeli-linked ship in the Strait of Hormuz, stoking fears off a widespread Middle East conflict.

Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israel’s defenses were prepared to handle the attack. Further details were not immediately available.

Iranian state media confirmed that a strike was being conducted, calling it a drone operation launched by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). A statement by the IRGC said that “missiles” were also involved.

Israeli aviation authorities said the country’s airspace will be closed to all flights ahead of the impending arrival of the Iranian drones and that sirens will be sounded in areas of potential strikes.

Two Iraqi security sources told Reuters that dozens of drones had been spotted flying from Iran in the direction of Israel.

An attack by Tehran had been widely anticipated in Israel following the suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, early last month that killed two brigadier generals.

Leaders in Tehran had warned of a retaliatory strike, while U.S. leaders, including President Joe Biden, have warned Iran against any assault on Israel, saying Washington would its support for Israel was “ironclad.”

U.S. officials also confirmed the drone attack and said the assault could last several hours.

“This attack is likely to unfold over a number of hours,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

“The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran,” the statement added.

Earlier on April 13, Iranian state media reported that IRGC forces had seized a container ship near the Strait of Hormuz, claiming the vessel was “linked to Israel.”

In Response, Israel said it was putting its military on high alert and canceling school activities over concerns of a possible attack.

It accused Iran of piracy and said Tehran will “bear the consequences” of escalating tensions in the Middle East.

In a televised briefing, Hagari said dozens of warplanes were in the air as part of the country’s readiness procedures.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel was “closely monitoring a planned attack” against it by Iran and its regional proxies, without providing further details.

The MSC Aries, a Portuguese-flagged vessel that is reportedly operated by a shipping company partially owned by an Israeli billionaire, was seized on April 13 and was being transferred to Iranian territorial waters, according to the IRNA state news agency.

The ship’s operator, the Italian-Swiss group MSC, later confirmed that Iranian authorities had boarded the vessel.

MSC said the ship had 25 crew members on board and said it was working closely with “the relevant authorities to ensure their well-being and safe return of the vessel.”

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations earlier said that the ship was seized in the Gulf of Oman close to the Emirati port city of Fujairah.

Following the ship incident, the White House said Biden was cutting short his weekend trip to Delaware and would return to Washington for consultations with his national-security advisers.

In a statement, the White House said that Iran must release the ship “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,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.

On April 12, Biden warned Iran against any retaliatory action, saying: “We are devoted to the defense of Israel. We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel and Iran will not succeed.”

Following the seizure of the vessel on April 13, the Israeli military spokesman said that “Iran will bear the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further.”

“Israel is on high alert,” Hagari said in a statement. “We have increased our readiness to protect Israel from further Iranian aggression. We are also prepared to respond.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz later said that Iran was led by a “criminal regime that supports Hamas’s 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 [Islamic] Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization and to sanction Iran now.”

Israel’s retaliatory war in Gaza was sparked by a raid on Israeli territory carried out by Hamas, which rules Gaza and is designated as a terrorist group by the United States and European Union, on October 7. The raid left 1,200 people dead and hundreds taken hostage.

The ensuing Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip aimed at destroying Hamas has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian territory’s Health Ministry.

Since the war began, Tehran has openly supported militant groups and proxies targeting Israel that are part of Iran’s “axis of resistance” against Israel and the West, leading to concerns of a broader Middle East conflict involving archenemies Iran and Israel.

In addition to strikes launched against Israel by Iranian proxy Hizballah in Lebanon, Iranian-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen have attacked Israeli territory as well as international and Israeli shipping in the Red Sea.

The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow passage to the Persian Gulf, which borders Iran and through which a fifth of the world’s oil traffic passes. Fujairah, which is on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), is a major shipping port.

Video seen by the Associated Press showed commandos rappelling from what appeared to be an IRGC helicopter to seize the MSC Aries. The IRGC has been involved in previous seizures of Western vessels by Iran.

On April 9, the head of the IRGC’s naval forces, Alireza Tangsiri, said Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz if deemed necessary.

Tangsiri said Iran viewed Israel’s presence in the U.A.E. as a threat. In 2020, Israel established diplomatic relations with the U.A.E. as part of the “Abraham Accords” mediated by the United States.


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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