Jerusalem: A cargo ship with links to Israel was hijacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Sunday in the Red Sea, a vital shipping route for global trade. The rebels said they seized the ship and its crew as part of their campaign against Israel’s ongoing airstrikes on Gaza. Israel denounced the hijacking as an “Iranian terrorist act” and said it was a serious threat to international security.
The hijacked ship, named Galaxy Leader, was flying the Bahamas flag and was en route from Korfez, Turkey to Pipavav, India. The ship was carrying 25 crew members of various nationalities, including Bulgarian, Filipino, Mexican, and Ukrainian, but no Israelis. The ship’s ownership details in public shipping databases show that it belongs to Ray Kar Carriers, a company founded by Abraham ‘Rami’ Unger, one of Israel’s richest men.
The Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran and control most of northern Yemen, claimed responsibility for the hijacking in a statement broadcast by their Al-Masirah TV channel. The rebels said they captured the ship and its crew as a “legitimate response” to Israel’s “aggression” on Gaza and warned that they would continue targeting ships belonging to or owned by Israel in international waters.
The rebels also said they were behind a series of attacks on ships in the Red Sea last month, using missiles and drones. The attacks targeted Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition fighting the rebels in Yemen, and Israel, which has accused Iran of using Yemen as a base to launch attacks on its interests.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office condemned the hijacking of the Galaxy Leader, calling it an “Iranian terrorist act” and a “flagrant violation of international law”. The office said that Israel holds Iran and its proxies responsible for the incident and will take all necessary measures to protect its citizens and interests.
The Israeli military also issued a statement, describing the kidnapping as “a very serious incident with global consequences”. The military said that the hijacking was part of Iran’s efforts to destabilize the region and threaten the freedom of navigation in the Red Sea. The military said that it was in contact with the relevant authorities and was monitoring the situation closely.
The hijacking of the Galaxy Leader comes amid a surge of violence in the Middle East, as Israel and Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, have been exchanging rocket fire and airstrikes for nearly two weeks. The conflict has killed more than 200 people, mostly Palestinians, and displaced tens of thousands more. The international community has been calling for an immediate ceasefire and a diplomatic solution to end the hostilities.
The Red Sea is a strategic waterway that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean. It is a major route for oil and gas shipments, as well as for trade between Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Red Sea also hosts the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a narrow chokepoint that controls access to the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.