New Delhi: Israel said Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized an Israeli-linked cargo ship in a crucial Red Sea shipping route on Sunday. This has raised fears that regional tensions heightened over the Israel-Hamas war were playing out on a new maritime front. There was no immediate comment from the Houthis, an Iran-backed rebel movement in Yemen that threatened earlier Sunday to target Israeli-linked vessels in the Red Sea, The Indian Express reported. Last month, Houthi rebels were suspected of sending missiles and drones over the crucial shipping lane of the sea.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said 25 crew members of various nationalities, including Bulgarians, Filipinos, Mexicans and Ukrainians but no Israelis, had been on board the hijacked Bahamas-flagged ship.
Netanyahu’s office condemned the seizure of the Galaxy Leader, a vehicle carrier, as an “Iranian act of terror.” The Israeli military called the hijacking a “very grave incident of global consequence.”
Satellite tracking data from MarineTraffic.com analyzed by the AP showed the Galaxy Leader travelling in the Red Sea southwest of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, more than a day ago. The vessel had been in Korfez, Turkey, and was on its way to Pipavav, India, at the time of the seizure reported by Israel.
Israeli officials insisted the ship was British-owned and Japanese-operated. However, ownership details in public shipping databases associated the ship’s owners with Ray Car Carriers, which was founded by Abraham “Rami” Ungar, who is known as one of the richest men in Israel. Ungar told The Associated Press he was aware of the incident but couldn’t comment as he awaited details.