Houthi Rebels Seize Israeli-Linked Ship in Red Sea
By: ATN News
In a significant development, Yemen's Houthi rebels successfully hijacked an Israeli-linked cargo ship navigating the Red Sea on Sunday. The incident, unfolding in a crucial maritime route, has escalated tensions, potentially linking back to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
The Houthi rebels, known to be backed by Iran, explicitly stated that the ship's connection to Israel prompted the seizure, resulting in the hostage-taking of over two dozen crew members. Their declaration warned of continued targeting of ships associated with Israelis in international waters until the conclusion of Israel's campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
The rebels emphasized, "All ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office swiftly attributed the attack to the Houthis, condemning it as an "Iranian act of terror." The Israeli military echoed the severity of the incident, labeling it a "very grave incident of global consequence."
Despite the Israeli claim that the ship, named Galaxy Leader, was British-owned and Japanese-operated, public shipping databases tell a different story. Ownership details associate the vessel with Ray Car Carriers, founded by the affluent Israeli figure Abraham “Rami” Ungar.
Ungar, who experienced a ship explosion in the Gulf of Oman in 2021, refrained from commenting on the recent incident, citing a need for more details. The international shipping landscape's complexity, involving various management entities, flags, and owners, adds intricacy to the unfolding situation.
U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the Houthi rebels' seizure of the Galaxy Leader. The rebels reportedly descended onto the cargo ship via a helicopter, a daring move that underlines the audacity of their maritime actions.
This incident follows recent instances of U.S. warships intercepting missiles and drones from Yemen, believed to pose threats to Israel or U.S. vessels. The strategic Red Sea has become a focal point for these interceptions, emphasizing its heightened geopolitical significance.
Satellite tracking data from MarineTraffic.com reveals the Galaxy Leader's journey, showing it traveling in the Red Sea southwest of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, over a day ago. The vessel, with its Automatic Identification System tracker switched off, raises questions about the crew's intentions and the potential for illicit activities.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations reported the hijacking occurred approximately 150 kilometers (90 miles) off the coast of Yemen’s port city of Hodeida, near the coast of Eritrea. The Red Sea's importance as a global trade and energy supply route has prompted the U.S. Navy to deploy multiple ships in the region since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7.
The broader context reveals a series of sea attacks since 2019 as Iran breached its nuclear deal, coupled with Israel's expansive campaign against Hamas. Fears are growing that these military operations could escalate into a wider regional conflict, especially as the Houthis repeatedly threaten to target Israeli ships in the waters off Yemen.
The situation remains fluid, with global attention focused on diplomatic efforts to address the crisis and prevent further escalation. Updates on this maritime incident will continue as more information becomes available.