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Iranian paramilitary troops seize Portuguese ship with Israeli ties as tensions remain high

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Iranian paramilitary troops seize Portuguese ship with Israeli ties as tensions remain high

Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) troops seized a Portuguese-flagged ship owned by an Israeli billionaire as tensions between the two nations remain at a high amid continued threats of attack. 

“UKMTO has received a report of an incident … northeast of Fujairah, UAE,” the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations reported. “Vessel reported to have been seized by regional authorities. Vessels are advised to transit with caution and report any suspicious activity to UKMTO.” 

The MSC Aries, a Portuguese-flagged ship owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, was passing through the Strait of Hormuz when an Iranian helicopter dropped IRGC troops onto its deck. Video taken by a crew member shows the troops rappelling down onto a stack of containers while the crew member tells his colleagues “Don’t come out.” 

He then tells the other crew members to go to the ship’s bridge while the IRGC commandos set up to take the ship, with one troop kneeling on top of the containers to provide potential cover fire if those on the ship tried to resist as more troops descend to the deck. 

IRAN VS ISRAEL: HOW POTENTAIL CONFLICT COULD LOOK ACCORDING TO EXPERTS: ‘ALREADY AT WAR’

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The Associated Press suggested the helicopter could be a Soviet-era Mil Mi-17 helicopter, which both the IRGC and Iran-backed Houthis have used to raid ships across the Red Sea, Sea of Oman and Persian Gulf. 

Video shows Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps  (The Associated Press)

Geneva-based MSC reported that the ship had 25 crew members aboard, and the Iranian state-run IRNA said the IRGC was taking the vessel into Iranian territorial waters. 

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The seizure follows a week of increased tensions between Iran and Israel. Tehran has repeatedly sworn to take revenge for the attack on an Iranian consulate in Damascus, which many – including the United States – attributed to Israel even though no Israeli official took credit for the attack. 

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Iran revolutionary guard with missile display

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) military personnel are walking along Enghelab (Revolution) Avenue as an Iranian Kheibar Surface-to-Surface missile is being unveiled during the Ela Beit Al-Moghaddas (Al-Aqsa Mosque) military rally in Tehran, Iran, on November 24, 2023. The IRGC is unveiling two new missiles during the rally.  (Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

President Biden on Friday said he believed Iran’s response could happen “sooner than later,” and the U.S. moved some assets closer to Israel to prepare for the possibility of an Iranian attack over the weekend. U.S. CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael Kurilla also moved up his trip to Israel in the face of increased Iranian threats over the past week. 

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The IRGC has previously tried to exert control over the Persian Gulf. In 2020, a number of smaller Guard boats harassed American naval ships, using their own ships to try and drive the American ones out of the Gulf.  

Raisi IRGC Salami

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (R) addressed while standing next to commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hossein Salami (L), and Mohammad Bagheri, Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, during a military parade marking Iran’s Army Day anniversary near the Imam Khomeini shrine in the south of Tehran, April 18, 2023. Raisi said, we will destroy Haifa and Tel Aviv if Israel takes ”the slightest action” against Iran. (Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The IRGC also seized a number of ships in the Gulf, including the 2020 taking of a Hong Kong-flagged oil tanker, also near the Strait of Hormuz, which is the pinch point between the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman. That ship was later released, Radio Free Europe reported. 

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Iran eased off its maritime activities as the Yemen-based Houthis ramped up their own raids on ships throughout the Red Sea, claiming the ships had ties to Israel and helped support Israel’s operations in the Gaza Strip. 

Iranian officials usually provided some explanation for seizing a vessel, but so far have offered nothing regarding the MSC Aries other than to note its links to Israel, The Associated Press reported. 

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Clashes erupt between university students and riot police outside Egyptian embassy in Beirut

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Clashes erupt between university students and riot police outside Egyptian embassy in Beirut

Clashes erupted on Monday between pro-Palestinian university students and riot police outside the Egyptian embassy in Beirut. Dozens of university students gathered outside the embassy, holding Palestinian flags and calling on the Egyptian government to open the Rafah border crossing and allow humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip.

Clashes erupted on Monday between pro-Palestinian university students and riot police outside the Egyptian embassy in Beirut. Dozens of university students gathered outside the embassy, holding Palestinian flags and calling on the Egyptian government to open the Rafah border crossing and allow humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip.


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Israeli excavators discover 2,300-year-old gold ring at City of David site

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Israeli excavators discover 2,300-year-old gold ring at City of David site

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Israeli researchers digging in Jerusalem’s City of David archeological site have uncovered an “exceedingly well-preserved” 2,300-year-old gold ring that is believed to have belonged to a boy or girl that lived in the area during the Hellenistic period. 

The piece of jewelry, which is “made of gold and set with a red precious stone, apparently a garnet,” has “accumulated no rust nor suffered other weathering of time,” the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Monday. 

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“I was sifting earth through the screen and suddenly saw something glitter,” Tehiya Gangate, a City of David excavation team member, said in a statement. “I immediately yelled, ‘I found a ring, I found a ring!’ Within seconds everyone gathered around me, and there was great excitement.”

“This is an emotionally moving find, not the kind you find every day,” she added. “In truth I always wanted to find gold jewelry, and I am very happy this dream came true – literally a week before I went on maternity leave.”   

EXPEDITION TO ‘HOLY GRAIL’ SHIPWRECK FULL OF GOLD, EMERALDS BEGINS IN CARIBBEAN SEA 

The Israel Antiquities Authority says because of the ring’s small diameter, “researchers estimate that it belonged to a boy or girl who lived in Jerusalem during the Hellenistic period.” (Israel Antiquities Authority)

The Israel Antiquities Authority says the ring was “recently found in the joint Israel Antiquities Authority-Tel Aviv University excavation in the City of David, part of the Jerusalem Walls National Park, with the support of the Elad Foundation.” 

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It will be put on display to the public in early June during Jerusalem Day. 

“The ring is very small. It would fit a woman’s pinky, or a young girl or boy’s finger,” the IAA cited Dr. Yiftah Shalev and Riki Zalut Har-Tov, Israel Antiquities Authority Excavation Directors, as saying. 

Tel Aviv University Professor Yuval Gadot and excavator Efrat Bocher added that, “The recently found gold ring joins other ornaments of the early Hellenistic period found in the City of David excavations, including the horned-animal earring and the decorated gold bead.”   

WOMAN OUT FOR A WALK STUMBLES UPON ONCE IN A DECADE DISCOVERY 

Gold ring found at City of David

A researcher poses with the ring after it was found in Jerusalem’s City of David. (Israel Antiquities Authority)

“Whereas in the past we found only a few structures and finds from this era, and thus most scholars assumed Jerusalem was then a small town, limited to the top of the southeastern slope (“City of David”) and with relatively very few resources, these new finds tell a different story: The aggregate of revealed structures now constitute an entire neighborhood,” they said. 

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“They attest to both domestic and public buildings, and that the city extended from the hilltop westward. The character of the buildings – and now of course, the gold finds and other discoveries, display the city’s healthy economy and even its elite status. It certainly seems that the city’s residents were open to the widespread Hellenistic style and influences prevalent also in the eastern Mediterranean Basin,” the researchers added. 

Gold ring discovered in Jerusalem

Those involved with the excavation say the ring helps “paint a new picture of the nature and stature of Jerusalem’s inhabitants in the Early Hellenistic Period.” (Israel Antiquities Authority)

 

The IAA says “Gold jewelry was well-known in the Hellenistic world, from Alexander the Great’s reign onward” as “his conquests helped spread and transport luxury goods and products.” 

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The Take: Why all eyes are on Rafah

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The Take: Why all eyes are on Rafah

Podcast,

The aftermath of a deadly Israeli attack on a tent camp for displaced Palestinians in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah.

Days after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to stop its operation in Rafah, Israel hit a tent camp there, killing more than 45 displaced people. As the world condemns the attack, Israel’s war on Gaza continues.

In this episode: 

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  • Akram Al Satarri, freelance journalist
  • Imran Khan, (@ajimran) Al Jazeera senior correspondent

Episode credits:

This episode was produced by David Enders and Khaled Sultan, with Manahil Naveed, Catherine Nouhan and our host Malika Bilal.

It was edited by Amy Walters.

Our sound designer is Alex Roldan. Our lead of audience development and engagement is Aya Elmileik and Adam Abou-Gad is our engagement producer.

Alexandra Locke is The Take’s executive producer. Ney Alvarez is Al Jazeera’s head of audio.

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