On November 20, 2023, the Iranian-backed Yemen-based Houthi rebels released video footage wherein its armed men dropped from a helicopter and seized an Israeli-linked cargo ship bound for India in a crucial shipping route.
The footage was released by the Houthi’s Media channel Al-Masirah. However, according to Israel, the seized ship (Galaxy Leader Ship) was British-owned and Japanese-operated.
The Video shows around ten armed men were dropped on the deck of the ship. Most of the video appears to have been shot by head cameras. It then shows that armed men seizing control of the bridge from the crew members. In a later part, the video purportedly describes and shows armed boats moving around and alongside the ships.
Iran’s alleged involvement
On November 19, 2023, Israel said that the Houthis seized a British-owned, Japanese-operated cargo ship in the Southern Red Sea, describing the incident as an Iranian act of terrorism with consequences for international maritime security. The Houthis, an ally of Tehran, confirmed that they seized a ship in the area but said the ship belonged to Israel.
Reasons behind the Hijack
The Iran-backed Houthi militants said that they hijacked the ship over its connection to Israel and would continue to target ships on international waters that were linked or owned by Israelis until the end of the Israel campaigns against Hamas rulers in Gaza. “All ships belonging to the Israeli military or that deal with it will become legitimate targets, the Houthis said.
Mohammad Abdul Salam, the chief negotiator of the Houthis and a spokesman, later added in an online statement that the only language which Israel understands is that of force. “the detention of the Israeli ship is a practical step that proves the seriousness of Yemen’s forces in waging the sea battle regardless of the cost and its costs, he added and said, “This is just the beginning.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office had blamed the Houthis for an attack on the Bahamas flagged Galaxy leader, a vehicle carrier affiliated with an Israeli billionaire, and there were no Israelis on board.
Whereabouts of the Ship
On its whereabouts, the vessel owner, on November 20, 2023, said that it was illegally boarded by military personnel via a helicopter and is now in the Hodeiah Port area in Yemen. “All communications were subsequently lost with the vessel, Isle of Man registered Galaxy Maritime Limited, owner of the pure car carrier Galaxy leader, in a statement. The shipping concern will not be commenting further on the political or geopolitical situation.
Reaction from the US
The United States of America denounced the ship’s seizure as a breach of international law and demanded the release of the vessel and the crew. “The Houthi seizer of the motor vessel Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea is a flagrant violation of international law, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told a briefing.
“We demand the immediate release of the ship and its crew, and we will consult our allies and our UN Partners to take the appropriate next steps, he added.
Composition of Crew
The Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader Crew is made up of nationals from Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Philippines, Mexico and Romania, Galaxy Maritime said. The vessel is chartered by Japan’s Nippon Yusen.
“Owners and managers believe the seizure of this vessel is a breach and gross violation of freedom of passage for the world fleet and a serious threat to International trade,” Galaxy Maritime said. It added that the key concern at this time is the safety and security of the 25 crew members currently being held at this time by the perpetrators of this criminal act.”