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Iran-Israel tensions: Vehicle blows up near Iranian embassy in Damascus, Iran seizes Israeli-linked ship with 17 Indians near Strait of Hormuz

Govt of India is touch with the Iranian authorities through diplomatic channels, both in Tehran and in Delhi, to ensure security, welfare and early release of Indian nationals on board MSC Aries seized by Iranian forces

Syrian state media reported that an explosive device detonated in a car in an upscale neighbourhood of Damascus, quoting a police source on 13th April. Damascus occasionally experiences similar instances including bombings that target civilian or military vehicles. The blast’s intended target and perpetrator continue to be unknown, however, suspected Israeli planes were allegedly behind it. The incident unfolded amid rising tensions in the capital of Syria as a result of Iran’s threat to retaliate for an attack on a structure inside the Iranian embassy complex in Damascus.

After the attack on 1st April, Tehran’s embassy in Damascus lost its consular annex and seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including two to three senior commanders were killed. Syria’s official SANA news agency cited a Damascus police command source and stated, “The explosion heard a short while ago in the Mazzeh area resulted from an explosive device detonating in a car in al-Huda square.”

It also stated that no injuries had occurred. The incident transpired in the Mazzeh area which is home to Iran’s foreign missions and embassies. Both Damascus and Tehran accuse Israel of orchestrating the consular raid. The strike happened against the backdrop of the continuing conflict between Israel and Hamas which started with the terrorist group’s unprecedented attack on Israel on 7th October.

Meanwhile, a cargo ship with ties to Israel was apprehended by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on 13th April near the Strait of Hormuz, according to the state-run Iranian news agency IRNA. The development transpired days after Tehran threatened to outlaw marine activity in the region. According to IRNA, the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries was boarded by a Revolutionary Guards helicopter and brought into Iranian territorial seas. A vessel was reportedly boarded and confiscated by “regional authorities” in the Hormuz Strait which separates Iran and the United Arab Emirates per earlier reports by shipping security agencies.

Zodiac Maritime’s affiliate Gortal Shipping has leased the Aries to multinational shipping company MSC, which is in charge of all vessel operations, per a statement from Zodiac Maritime. Eyal Ofer, an Israeli businessman, owns a portion of Zodiac. As Israel and its ally the United States have been fighting Iranian-aligned forces in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen regularly since the beginning of Israel’s assault in Gaza in October, there has been an increase in regional tensions. A video showed the attack earlier reported by the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations.

As per reports, 17 Indians are on board the ship seized by Iranian forces. India is already in touch with the Iranian authorities to ensure security, welfare and the early release of the Indians, govt of India sources said. “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,” said a govt source.

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

Iran has vowed to fight back after the 1st April attack in Damascus. On 12th April, US President Joe Biden stated that he anticipated Iran attacking Israel “sooner, rather than later” and he cautioned Tehran against pushing further. “Iran will bear consequences for choosing to escalate this situation any further,” announced Israel’s military spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari. The remark came in response to reports of the seizure of MSC Aries.

The Revolutionary Guards’ naval chief, Alireza Tangsiri, declared on 9th April that the strait of Hormuz might be closed if required. He claimed that Iran perceived Israel’s establishment of diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates through the “Abraham Accords” in 2020 which were mediated by the United States as a threat. The Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen has been attacking ships in the Red Sea for months, ostensibly to avenge Israel’s campaign in Gaza by targeting Israeli-affiliated vessels, thereby disrupting international trade.

According to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei this week, Israel “must be punished and it shall be”calling the move equivalent to an attack on Iranian territory. The Pentagon has declared that Israel was to blame, although Tel Aviv has not acknowledged it. “It has been a week that the Zionists are in complete panic and are on alert. They don’t know what Iran wants to do, so they and their supporters are terrified,” voiced Yahya Rahim Safavi, senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He added, “This psychological, media and political war is more terrifying for them than the war itself because they are waiting for an attack every night and many of them have fled and gone to shelters.”

As retaliation for the attacks on shipping, the United States and the United Kingdom launched operations against Houthi targets. The Joint Maritime Information Center, which is overseen by a naval alliance led by the West, advised ships that plan to pass through the Strait of Hormuz, one of the most vital energy corridors in the world, to proceed with caution and avoid stopping. Iran did not immediately disclose that it had seized any vessels, and state media did not report on the incident either. However, in the midst of continued tensions with the West over its rapidly progressing nuclear program, Iran has engaged in a series of ship seizures and attacks on vessels since 2019.

The Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf’s tiny opening through which a fifth of the world’s oil travels, is close to the Gulf of Oman. Fujairah is a major port in the area for ships to pick up supplies, trade out crew or take on new oil cargo. It is located on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates. Many explosions and hijackings have occurred in the waters off Fujairah since 2019. The US Navy accused Iran of attacking ships with limpet mines and causing damage to tankers.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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