Iran seized a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, according to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
Just after 1 p.m. local time, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker while it was passing through international waters.
The U.S. Navy said the oil tanker “issued a distress call during the seizure” and the U.S. 5th Fleet is monitoring the situation.
“Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability. The Iranian government should immediately release the oil tanker,” the U.S. Navy said in a statement.
“Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are a threat to maritime security and the global economy. In the past two years, Iran has unlawfully seized at least five commercial vessels sailing in the Middle East,” it added.
Earlier this month, one of the most powerful military leaders in Iran called on allies throughout the Middle East to coordinate attacks against Israeli targets, according to people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Esmail Qaani, leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, has been meeting in secret with militants in Syria, Iraq and other nations across the region. The Journal’s sources said Qaani met with the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Beirut at the Iranian embassy last week.
During one meeting, the leaders finalized plans for a rocket attack, at which point militants in Lebanon launched a series of rockets at Israel in the largest attack of its kind since 2006. Israel was also bombarded with rockets from Gaza and Syria.
This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.