A dramatic video showed Iranian-backed Houthi rebels from Yemen hijacking an Israeli-linked cargo ship in the Red Sea on Sunday – but Israeli officials insist the ship has no connection to the country.
Armed fighters descended from a helicopter onto the deck of the Bahamian-flagged Galaxy Leader vehicle carrier and quickly held the 25 crew members at gunpoint, footage released Monday by Houthi television channel Al Masirah showed.
Their intrusion was particularly similar to the method used by Iranian forces to seize ships in the Strait of Hormuz. noted the Times of Israel.
One of the rebels was heard shouting what sounded like the Houthi slogan as he paced back and forth on the deck.
The act is the Houthis’ first official entry into a foreign war classified as a terrorist group by the USA until February 2021.
According to the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, the seizure is believed to have taken place about 90 miles off the coast of the Yemeni port city of Hodeida while the Galaxy Leader was en route from Turkey to India.
“All ships belonging to or related to the Israeli enemy will become legitimate targets.” [until the bombardment of the Gaza Strip ends]the Houthis said of the kidnapping.
Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the Houthis’ chief negotiator and spokesman, also said in an online statement that the Israeli government had only responded to “the language of violence.”
“The detention of the Israeli ship is a practical step that proves the seriousness of the Yemeni Armed Forces in waging the naval battle, regardless of its costs and costs,” he said.
“This is the beginning.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office called the hijacking an “Iranian act of terrorism,” while the Israeli military described it as a “very serious incident of global concern.”
Israeli officials also insisted that the Galaxy Leader was actually British-owned and operated by Japan – although public shipping database records seen by The Post showed the ship’s owners are linked to Ray Car Carriers, owned by Israeli billionaire Abraham “Rami” Ungar was founded.
Ungar declined to comment to The Associated Press about the incident, saying he was waiting for more information.
The ship’s operator, Japan-based NYK Line, said the ship had no cargo on board at the time of the hijacking.
The crew members are from the Philippines, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Mexico, NYK said.
On Monday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the government would do everything in its power to secure the release of the crew through negotiations with the Houthi rebels.
Japan will also communicate with Israel and work with the governments of Iran, Oman and Saudi Arabia during the process, he added.
At the time of the initial announcement, the Houthi rebels said they would treat the Galaxy Leader’s crew “in accordance with their Islamic values,” but did not explain what that meant.
The Galaxy Leader’s captain and first officer are both from Bulgaria, authorities confirmed Monday.
“So far no one has contacted us,” the country’s top police official, Zhivko Kotsev, told reporters, adding that authorities were in contact with the victims’ families.
The Houthis have repeatedly threatened Israeli ships off the Yemeni coast in recent years, said Yemen expert Gregory D. Johnsen.
The attacks were beneficial to the group’s benefactors in Tehran and also increased its profile in Yemen, he said.
Red Sea trade routes have become increasingly tense since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7th.
At least twice in the last month, U.S. warships stationed in the region have intercepted missiles or drones from Yemen that were believed to have targeted Israeli or American ships.
With post wires