Red Sea Crisis: Houthi Rebels Seize Ship Bound for India, Crew Held Hostage
In a concerning development on Sunday, Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized control of an Israeli-linked cargo ship, the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader, bound for India. The rebels took 25 crew members hostage, raising fears of an escalation in regional tensions. The Iran-backed Houthis justified the hijacking, citing the ship’s connection to Israel.
The Houthi rebels vowed to target ships associated with or owned by Israelis in international waters until the end of Israel’s campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers. The move signifies a new maritime front amid heightened tensions in the region.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office condemned the act as an “Iranian act of terror,” though it clarified that no Israelis were on board. The ship’s Japanese operator, NYK Line, revealed that the vessel had no cargo during the hijacking. Crew members, comprising nationals from the Philippines, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and Mexico, are reportedly being held by the Houthis.
Japan condemned the hijacking, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno stating that the Japanese government is actively working for the crew’s early release through negotiations with Houthi rebels. International efforts involve communication with Israel, and cooperation with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Iran.
The Houthi rebels, known for their association with Iran, claimed they were treating the crew members “in accordance with their Islamic values,” without providing further details.
The ship’s ownership details are under scrutiny, with Israeli officials insisting it was British-owned and Japanese-operated. However, public shipping databases link the vessel to Ray Car Carriers, founded by Israeli billionaire Abraham “Rami” Ungar.
Two US defense officials confirmed the seizure, highlighting similarities with previous actions by Iran, a longtime supporter of the Houthi rebels. Recent incidents, including the interception of missiles from Yemen, indicate growing tensions in the region.
The Red Sea, a crucial trade route, remains a focal point, with the US Navy deploying ships since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war. The Houthi threat against Israeli ships adds complexity to an already volatile situation.
As the international community closely monitors the unfolding situation, concerns persist that the conflict between Israel and Hamas could escalate into a broader regional conflict. The Houthi rebels’ strategic move in targeting an Israeli-linked ship amplifies the geopolitical complexities at play in the region.