Houthi rebels from Yemen have hijacked a cargo ship with up 22 crew members in the Red Sea in a ‘grave incident on a global level’.
The Bahaman-flagged ‘Galaxy Leader’ was boarded by armed men as it travelled south past the Arabian peninsula on its way to India.
The ship is registered under a British company which is partially owned by Israeli tycoon Abraham Ungar, and is currently leased out to a Japanese company, according to reports.
It came hours after the Iranian-backed Houthi militia – which has fought a bloody civil war against the Yemeni government since the 1990s – vowed to target ships linked to Israel in the Red Sea in retaliation for the Jewish state’s response to the October 7 attacks.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have confirmed there are no Israeli citizens on board and denied the ship was Israeli, but called it a ‘grave incident’.
The vessel Galaxy Leader has been hijacked by Yemeni Houthi rebels in the Red Sea
Israeli Defence Forces said the hijacking of the ship was a ‘very grave incident of global consequence’
In a statement released on social media it said: ‘ The hijacking of a cargo ship by the Houthis near Yemen in the southern Red Sea is a very grave incident of global consequence.
‘The ship departed Turkey on its way to India, staffed by civilians of various nationalities, not including Israelis. It is not an Israeli ship.’
It is reported that the nationalities on board the ship include Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos and Mexicans.
According to publicly-available tracking data, the ship’s last known location was east of Port Sudan in the Red Sea on Saturday.
Last week the leader of the Houthis, an Islamist movement which has fired a number of missiles towards Israel in recent weeks, warned they would make further attacks on the Jewish state.
Abdulmalik al-Houthi 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.’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for the hijacking, but provided no evidence it had been seized on Iranian orders.
In a statement issued this afternoon, he said ‘We strongly condemn the Iranian attack against an international ship’, seemingly referring to the Houthis Iranian backing.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident an ‘act of Iranian terrorism’, seemingly linking the nation to the Houthi rebels who hijacked the ship
According to the most recent publicly-available tracking data, the ship was last seen to the east of Port Sudan on Saturday
‘The ship, owned by a British company and operated by a Japanese company, was hijacked on Iranian whim by the Houthi militia in Yemen.
‘On board the ship are 25 crew members of different nationalities, including: Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos and Mexicans.
‘No Israelis were present on the ship.
‘This is another act of Iranian terrorism which expresses a leap forward in Iran’s aggression against the citizens of the free world, and creates international implications regarding the security of global shipping lanes,’ the statement concluded.
In Yemen, Iran backs and supplies the Houthis, a Shiite faction that has been at war against a Saudi-led Sunni coalition in the country since 2015.
The Houthis have emerged as a major military force in the Arabian Peninsula, with tens of thousands of fighters and a huge arsenal of ballistic missiles and armed drones.