Iran Says It Has Released Israel-Linked Ship’s Crew It Detained

Iran has released the crew of a container ship with links to Israel that it had detained last month, but is continuing to hold the vessel, the country’s foreign minister has said, according to Iranian media.

Iranian forces seized the Portuguese-flagged ship, the MSC Aries, as tensions between Iran and Israel were rising. Israel and the United States have condemned the seizure, with the U.S. National Security Council calling on Iran to release the vessel and its crew immediately.

The Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said that the crew had been released “with a humane approach” and that “it is possible for them to return” to their home countries, Tasnim News, a semiofficial news agency affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, reported on Thursday.

The ship itself is still “under judicial detention,” the agency quoted him as saying. Israel and the United States did not immediately comment.

The MSC Aries, a 1,200-foot cargo vessel, had 25 crew members on board, according to its operator. It is operated by MSC, a major shipping company, but belongs to an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, which is part of the Zodiac Group, owned by the Israel-born billionaire Eyal Ofer.

At the time it was detained on April 13, MSC said the vessel had been boarded by “Iranian authorities” via helicopter as it passed the Strait of Hormuz. A video published by Iranian state news media showed a military helicopter hovering above what appeared to be the stern of the ship, with at least two soldiers descending by rope onto the deck.

The soldiers were part of the Revolutionary Guards, according to IRNA, the Iranian state news agency.

It was not the first time Iran had seized a commercial vessel. In January, Iran’s navy seized a tanker loaded with oil off the coast of Oman. In that seizure, soldiers also descended from a helicopter. Before the war in Gaza, the United States said that Iran had “harassed, attacked or interfered” with more than a dozen internationally flagged merchant ships in recent years.

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