17 Indians onboard Israeli-linked ship seized by Iran; Delhi says release efforts on

New Delhi, : India is in touch with Iran to secure the release of 17 Indians on board an Israeli-linked cargo ship that was seized by the Iranian military near the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday amid increasing fears of an Iranian attack on Israel.
Official sources said India has taken up the matter with Iranian authorities through diplomatic channels, both in Tehran and in Delhi, to ensure the welfare and early release of the Indian crew of the cargo ship ‘MSC Aries’.

The Iranian action came amid heightened fears that Tehran may launch an attack on Israel in retaliation to a strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria 12 days ago. Iran blamed Israel for the strike.

“We are aware that a cargo ship ‘MSC Aries’ has been taken control by Iran. We have learnt that there are 17 Indian nationals onboard,” an Indian government source said.

“We are in touch with Iranian authorities through diplomatic channels, both in Tehran and in Delhi, to ensure security, welfare and early release of Indian nationals,” it said.

Iranian news agency IRNA reported that the Portuguese-flagged vessel is operated by the Zodiac Maritime Shipping Company, which is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

It said Special Naval Forces of Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) seized MCS Aries near the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, adding the forces carried out a heliborne operation on the ship’s deck, directing it towards Iran’s territorial waters.

With tensions rising, Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said, “Iran will bear the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further.”

In a brief update, the UK’s Maritime Trade Operations agency mentioned the seizing of the ship by “regional authorities” off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE. It did not mention the involvement of Iranian forces.

There have been mounting tensions in West Asia following the attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1. Iranian media reported that seven Revolutionary Guards personnel, including two generals, were killed in the attack.

After Iran vowed to avenge the attack, media reports from Tel Aviv said that the Israeli forces were preparing for any eventuality.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden cautioned Iran against an attack on Israel.

“We are devoted to the defence of Israel. We will support Israel. We will defend, help defend Israel. And Iran will not succeed,” he told reporters.

India had on Friday asked its citizens not to travel to Iran and Israel.