A Bahaman-flagged cargo ship, the 'Galaxy Leader', has been hijacked in the Red Sea by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, with up to 22 crew members believed to have been taken hostage. The ship is registered under a British company and leased out to a Japanese company, with no Israeli citizens on board.
The dramatic hijacking took place over the weekend as the ship was traveling south past the Arabian peninsula on its way to India. The rebel group had previously vowed to attack ships in retaliation for Israel's response to the October 7 attacks. They released a chilling video demonstrating their plans to send speedboats to attack and seize ships, and today seemingly made good on their promise by targeting the 'Galaxy Leader'.
According to the Houthis, the ship has been diverted to a Houthi-controlled coastal area in Yemen. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pointed the finger at Iran, claiming it to be an act of terrorism by the Iranian regime. He stated that the ship is owned by a British company, operated by a Japanese company, and departed from Turkey to India. There are no Israelis on board, and Israel is not involved in the ownership or operation of the ship.
This incident comes after the leader of the Houthis, Abdulmalik al-Houthi, warned that they would make further attacks on Israel. In a statement, he said, 'Our eyes are open to constantly monitor and search for any Israeli ship in the Red Sea, especially in Bab al-Mandab, and near Yemeni regional water.'
The British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which provides warnings to sailors in the Persian Gulf and the wider region, put the hijacking as having occurred some 150 kilometers off the coast of Yemen's port city of Hodeida, near the coast of Eritrea.
According to publicly available tracking data, the ship's last known location was east of Port Sudan in the Red Sea on Saturday. The vessel had its Automatic Identification System tracker, or AIS, switched off, which is a violation of safety regulations. The ship's ownership has been linked to the Israeli tycoon, Abraham 'Rami' Ungar, who is known for his close ties to the former director of Israel's Mossad spy agency.
In response to the incident, the Israeli government has released a statement condemning the hijacking as an act of Iranian terrorism and an escalation of their belligerence against the citizens of the free world. A US Defense official said they are closely monitoring the situation.
It is reported that the nationalities on board the ship include Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos, and Mexicans. It remains unclear if any of the crew members have been harmed or what demands the Houthis may have. The Red Sea is a key trade route for global shipping, and this incident raises concerns about the safety and security of these ships in the region.
Meanwhile, Israel continues its operation in Gaza, which has left over 11,500 Palestinians dead, according to health authorities. A further 2,700 are reported missing, believed buried under rubble. The Israeli military says they have killed thousands of militants in the airstrikes and ground invasion.
As talks of a ceasefire intensify, the Qatari prime minister expressed confidence that a deal will soon be reached, with the main sticking points being logistical. The region remains on high alert as tensions continue to rise, and the international community calls for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The hijacking of the 'Galaxy Leader' highlights the volatile situation in the region and the need for cooperation and de-escalation to ensure the safety and security of global shipping.