The attack involved the Japanese cargo ship Galaxy Leader and came just a few days after the Houthis released a graphic of an Israeli commercial ship in flames with a caption stating, “We will sink your ships.” The group has been fighting against the military of Yemen with backing from Iran for longer than a decade.
U.S. officials reported that the attack was carried out by helicopter at around 1:00 pm local time on Sunday. Armed rebels rappelled down to the deck of the boat from a helicopter that hovered overhead.
The ship is operated by a Japanese company and owned by a British company. However, the ship’s owners have been linked to Ray Car Carriers, a company that was founded by the Israeli billionaire Abraham “Rami” Ungar. He told the AP that he was aware of the incident but did not want to comment as he waited for more details. A different ship linked to Ungar experienced an explosion in the Gulf of Oman in 2021; the incident was blamed on Iran at the time.
None of the crew members on board the ship were Israeli. The crew comes from countries such as the Philippines, Mexico, Ukraine and Bulgaria.
A Houthi spokesperson confirmed that the ship was targeted due to its ties with Israel. There was no cargo on board at the time, and the ship was en route from Turkey to India.
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree wrote on X: “The Yemeni armed forces reiterate their warning to all ships belonging to or dealing with the Israeli enemy that they will become a legitimate target for armed forces.”
He said that armed forces will continue to operate against Israel until it ends its campaign against Hamas.
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack and said in a statement: “This is another act of Iranian terrorism and constitutes a leap forward in Iran’s aggression against the citizens of the free world, with international consequences regarding the security of the global shipping lanes.”
One U.S. military official told The Hill: “Houthi militants’ seizure of the motor vessel Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea is a flagrant violation of international law.”
They called for the ship and the crew to be released immediately.
This is the latest attack launched against Israel by the Houthis, who are siding with their fellow Iranian proxy, Hamas, in its war against Israel. After Hamas carried out a brutal attack that killed 1,200 Israelis and took more than 240 people hostage, the resulting Israeli air and ground offensive has been incredibly deadly, with the Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry reporting that more than 13,000 people have died in Gaza so far. Since the beginning of the fighting, the Houthis have been launching missiles and drones in the direction of Israel.
On October 19, a U.S. Navy war ship shot down a trio of cruise missiles and a dozen drones fired from Yemen toward Israel, according to a spokesman for the Department of Defense. On October 31, militants who officials believe are Houthis fired a ballistic missile from Yemen in the direction of Israel. The IDF said that its Arrow defense system intercepted the missiles.
The International Maritime Security Construct sent an advisory last week to all mariners navigating the Red Sea warning them to keep their distance from Yemeni waters and advising them to travel at night if possible.
Sources for this article include: