Biden returns to White House after Iranian forces seize container ship

U.S. Marine Sgt. Joseph Graydon is shown standing security watch aboard the USS San Diego in the Strait of Hormuz on Feb. 19, 2021. Iranian media reported Saturday the country's military has seized a Portuguese-flagged cargo ship it claims is linked to Israel. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brandon Woods

April 13 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden cut short his weekend vacation and returned to the White House Saturday after the Iranian seizure of an Israel-related container ship made the threat of retaliation more tangible.

Biden's return was announced Saturday afternoon in a White House pool report, which said the president planned to convene with his national security team ahead of a possible Iranian attack against Israel.

Members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps executed a helicopter-borne assault to capture an Israeli-related container ship in the Strait of Hormuz, official Iranian media reported earlier Saturday.

IRGC forces fast-roped from a helicopter onto the deck of the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries at about 2:50 a.m. UTC time, captured the vessel and rerouted it to Iranian waters, according to the MEHR News Agency.

The U.K. Maritime Trade Organization in a post on X said the assault occurred about 50 nautical miles northeast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, in the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

The Italian-Swiss Mediterranean Shipping Company confirmed in a statement to media outlets the captured ship is the Aries, which had 25 crew members on board. Company officials said they are working with "relevant authorities to ensure their well being and [the] safe return of the vessel."

The ship's seizure occurred 12 days after a deadly Israeli airstrike on the Iranian embassy in Damascus on April 1. The attack killed 16, including seven IRGC members.

Iran has vowed revenge, and the United States on Friday warned Israel of a pending attack after restricting government employees and their families from traveling to Israel.

U.S. and Israeli defense officials have said an Iranian attack would likely include launches of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and attack drones.

Shortly after the ship seizure, the Israel Defense Forces warned they are on the alert for any threats.

"Iran will bear the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further," IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a video post on X. "Israel is on high alert. We have increased our readiness to protect Israel from further Iranian aggression."

White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrianne Watson also condemned the attack on X and called on Iran to "release the vessel and its international crew immediately."

Israeli officials have increased military measures and restrictions on public gatherings in anticipation of an attack.

The Home Front Command said it ordered a two-day pause on educational activities beginning Saturday night and limited gatherings to 1,000 people or fewer in some areas.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says ships bearing a combined total of more than 20% of the world's oil supply annually traverse the Strait of Hormuz.