Houthi spokesman announces the seizure of an Israel-linked ship by the group’s fighters.
Yemen’s Houthi movement claims to have gained control of a ship owned by Israel in the southern Red Sea. Israel, in response, labels this as an “Iranian act of terrorism” with potential repercussions for global maritime safety.
A Houthi military representative confirmed to Al Jazeera that fighters had hijacked the British-owned cargo ship operated by Japan. The ship, known as Galaxy Leader, reportedly has partial ownership by an Israeli businessman and was on its way from Turkey to India with 22 crew members on board.
We’ve received official confirmation that the ship was hijacked by the Houthis. They have also announced a plan to target Israeli-flagged ships and warned international sailors against working for such companies,” reported Al Jazeera’s Mohammed al-Attab from Yemen’s capital, Sanaa.
Yemen’s Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree stated, “We are treating the crew in accordance with Islamic norms and principles.”
He further warned that any ship belonging to Israel or its supporters would be a legitimate target for Houthi forces.
Saree emphasized, “We confirm our continuation of military operations against [Israel] until the aggression and ugly crimes against our Palestinian brothers in Gaza and the West Bank stop.”
The Houthis, backed by Tehran, have targeted Israel with missile and drone attacks since the recent surge in conflict involving the besieged Gaza Strip, which began on October 7.
“The Houthis have carried out a number of attacks on Iranian targets. We are expecting more attacks in the coming days,” al-Attab added.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office described the hijacking as “a very serious event on a global level.” It stated that there were no Israelis among the crew members and underlined the multinational composition of the crew.
“The ship departed Turkey on its way to India, staffed by civilians of various nationalities, not including Israelis. It is not an Israeli ship,” clarified the Israeli army.
A US defence official confirmed the US is closely monitoring the situation.
Al Jazeera’s reporters highlighted that although the shipping company is partly owned by an Israeli businessman, no evidence linking Iran to the hijacking has been provided by Israel.
The conflict in Gaza has heightened tensions in the region, leading to concerns about a broader regional conflict.
“Iran in the past has distanced itself from these various armed groups in the Middle East that are against Israel,” notes Jabbari.
“But given Israel’s continuous bombardment of Gaza and what they call ‘genocide’ against the Palestinian population, the Iranians are saying the conflict could spread,” she added.