Yemen's Houthi rebels have escalated regional tensions by seizing a cargo ship, the Galaxy Leader, in the southern Red Sea. The vessel, reportedly chartered by Israel, was transporting cars from Turkey to India when it was captured.
Footage released by the Houthis shows a dramatic scene with at least seven armed men descending from a helicopter onto the ship's deck, culminating in the raising of the Yemeni and Palestinian flags. The State Department has condemned the seizure as a “flagrant violation of international law”.
Spokesman Matt Miller emphasized the urgency of the situation, demanding the “immediate release” of the ship and its crew. “The Houthi seizure of the motor vessel Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea is a flagrant violation of international law”.
Conflicting Claims and International Repercussions
The incident has sparked a complex international dispute. Israel maintains that the seized ship is British-owned and Japanese-operated, highlighting the global nature of maritime commerce.
However, the vessel, registered under the Bahamas flag, is reportedly linked to Israeli businessman Abraham “Rami” Ungar. The Houthi rebels have justified their action as retaliation for Israel's military campaign against Hamas, following an attack by the Palestinian militants on October 7.
Israeli officials report that this attack killed 1,200 people and resulted in approximately 240 hostages. In response, Israel has conducted extensive aerial bombardment and ground operations in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, leading to over 13,000 casualties, according to the health ministry there.
This seizure and the Houthis' warning that Israeli ships are a “legitimate target” add a new dimension to the already volatile situation in the region. Major General Ali Al-Moshki, a Houthi military official, reinforced this stance in a statement to the group’s Al-Massirah TV station, declaring that they will not hesitate to take action against Israeli ships.
“Israeli ships are legitimate targets for us anywhere ... and we will not hesitate to take action”. The international community is closely monitoring these developments, as they represent a significant escalation in the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. The situation poses serious challenges for diplomatic and security efforts aimed at stabilizing the region.