On Sunday, November 19, a group of Yemen’s Houthi rebels captured an Israeli-linked cargo ship located in a crucial Red Sea shipping route. Now, as a result of the capture, over two dozen crew members have been taken hostage, which raises fears that regional tensions heightened over the Israel-Hamas war could play out on a new maritime front.
Although the Iran-backed Houthi rebels said they hijacked the ship due to its connection to Israel, this is not the first time Iran’s actions have escalated international conflicts. The consequences of such behavior could be dire for global security and peace.
The Bahamian flagged Galaxy Leader vessel, which is affiliated with an Israeli billionaire, had 25 crew members from Bulgaria, Filipino, Mexico and Ukraine at the time of its seizure. Despite claims by Netanyahu’s office that it was British-owned and Japanese operated, research into public shipping databases revealed ownership details associated with Ray Car Carriers which is founded by Abraham “Rami” Ungar – who is known as one of Israel’s richest men.
Ungar himself admitted he was aware of what happened but wouldn’t comment further until more information came out. A similar incident occurred earlier in 2021 when a ship linked to Ungar experienced an explosion in the Gulf of Oman – although Israel media blamed it on Iran at the time.
The Ansarullah Movement seized Israeli Galaxy Leader ship
This is an extremely bad news for the Israeli economy pic.twitter.com/Rr97twKtg1
— Iran Observer (@IranObserver0) November 19, 2023
Two U.S defense officials confirmed that Houthi rebels were indeed responsible for seizing Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea where U.S warships have intercepted missiles or drones from Yemen headed towards Israel or posing threats to American vessels twice last month alone. The USS Carney intercepted three land attack cruise missiles while USS Thomas Hudner saw a drone (believed to originate from Yemen) sailing near Bab-el-Mandeb strait and shot it down over water resulting in no casualties or damage reported yet again.
To make matters worse, satellite tracking data from MarineTraffic shows that Galaxy Leader was traveling southwest off Jeddah when it got hijacked almost 90 miles away from Yemen’s port city Hodeida near Eritrea coast while its Automatic Identification System tracker (AIS) had been switched off.