Yemen's Houthis hijacked an Israeli-owned vessel in the Red Sea

Sherry El Gergawi , Sunday 19 Nov 2023

Yemen's Houthis on Sunday hijacked an Israeli cargo vessel in the Red Sea, sailing from Turkey to India.

 Galaxy Leader  vessel
The Bahaman-flagged Galaxy Leader vessel, registered under Ray Shipping, which is partially owned by Israeli Tycoon Rami Unger. Photo courtesy of VesselFinder


Al-Arabiya channel reports that the Houthi rebels hijacked the ship "Galaxy Leader," which specializes in transporting cars and carries the Bahamas flag, with 22 people on board.

According to a marine traffic website, the vessel was in the Red Sea on Saturday and may have arrived off the Yemeni coast.

The ship is registered under Ray Shipping, which is partially owned by the Israeli business tycoon Rami Unger, known as one of the richest men in Israel.

"We took an Israeli cargo ship to the Yemeni coast," a Houthi official said, while a maritime source in the coastal city of Hodeida said the ship had been taken to the port of Salif.

The Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari, however, denied it was an Israeli ship.

On his X account, Hagari said that "the vessel's international civilian crew was without Israelis. This is not an Israeli ship." He added that "this is a very grave incident with global consequences."

Later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office confirmed in a statement that “there were no Israelis on the ship.”

The statement also accused Iran of being behind the hijacking, with grave consequences for the security of global shipping routes. 

The Galaxy Leader was crewed by citizens of Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Philippines, and Mexico.

Last week, Yemen's Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi threatened to target all Israeli ships in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait in retaliation for its deadly war on the Gaza Strip.

In a press conference on Sunday, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said that the "military forces will continue to carry out military operations against the Israeli enemy until the aggression against Gaza stops and the ugly crimes against our Palestinian brothers in Gaza and the West Bank stop".

Two US defense officials also confirmed to AP that Houthi rebels seized the Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea on Sunday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Houthi rebels descended on the cargo ship by repelling down from a helicopter.

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