Published: 09:39, November 20, 2023 | Updated: 13:01, November 20, 2023
Houthis seize cargo ship with Israeli links in Red Sea
By Xinhua

The Galaxy Leader is seen at the port of Koper, Slovenia on Sept 16, 2008. Yemen's Houthi rebels seized the Israeli-linked cargo ship in a crucial Red Sea shipping route on Nov 19, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)

SANAA/JERUSALEM/ADEN - Yemen's Houthi rebels on Sunday confirmed that they have hijacked a cargo ship with Israeli links in the Red Sea.

"The Houthis announce the implementation of a military operation in the Red Sea, the results of which included the seizure of an Israeli ship," Houthi military spokesman Yehya Sarea said in a statement aired by the group's al-Masirah TV.

Onboard the ship were at least 25 crew members of several nationalities, including Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos and Mexicans. "No Israelis were present on the ship,"  according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office 

Renewing the rebel group's threat to target all ships belonging to or dealing with Israel, Sarea called on "all countries whose citizens work in the Red Sea to stop any activity with Israeli ships or ships rented by Israelis."

The spokesman reiterated that the group would continue to carry out military operations against Israel until "its aggression against the Gaza Strip" stops.

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Hours earlier, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement that the Houthis took control of the cargo ship near Yemen in the southern Red Sea, adding that the vessel was heading from Türkiye to India. IDF warned that the hijacking was "a very grave incident of global consequence."

The ship was identified as the Galaxy Leader, a cargo ship that transports cars, according to a report by the Saudi-based Al Arabiya TV news.

Israel's state-owned Kan TV news reported that the ship was operated by a Japanese company, which leased it from a British company co-owned by Rami Ungar, an Israeli shipping mogul and importer of vehicles.

In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office "strongly condemned" the hijacking, saying the ship "was hijacked at the whim of Iran by the Houthi militia in Yemen."

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According to the office, onboard the ship were at least 25 crew members of several nationalities, including Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos and Mexicans. "No Israelis were present on the ship," the statement read.

Marine Traffic, an online vessel tracking platform, published its last update about the hijacked Galaxy Leader at 13:04 local time on Saturday.

The Houthi militia controls much of Yemen's north, including the strategic Red Sea port city of Hodeidah since the Yemeni civil war erupted in late 2014.