A US navy ship fired warning shots near an Iranian vessel in the Gulf on Tuesday (25 July) after the latter allegedly came too close to the American Cyclone-class patrol ship. However, Iran accused the US of triggering the encounter.

The US Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement that a ship operated by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) came within 137m of their patrol ship, the USS Thunderbolt, following which they fired the warning shots.

US officials added that the shots were fired after the Iranian ship ignored their radio calls, flares and the ship's whistle. A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the IRGC vessel was armed but weapons were unmanned, according to Al Jazeera.

The ship finally stopped its approach after the warning shots were fired, the officials added.

Later in the day, the IRGC issued a statement blaming the US forces for provoking the incident. "The Revolutionary Guards navy boat, without paying attention to this unprofessional and provocative behavior, continued its mission and after a short period of time the American ship left the area," the statement said, according to Sepah News, the official news site of the IRGC.

The USS Thunderbolt is based in Bahrain as part of the US navy's Fifth Fleet. The ship is the latest to be involved in a confrontation with Iranian vessels.

The last major incident took place in January when a US Navy destroyer fired three warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack vessels near the Strait of Hormuz. US officials had then accused the Iranian vessels of sailing dangerously close to their destroyer at high speed, disregarding repeated requests to slow down.

USS Thunderbolt in the Gulf
An Iranian vessel steers close to the US Navy coastal patrol craft USS Thunderbolt (R) in the Gulf in a still image from video provided by the US Navy on 25 July, 2017 US Navy/Handout via Reuters