Yemen’s Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, seized control of a cargo vessel named the Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea. While the ship is owned by a British-based shipping company and operated by a Japanese firm, the Houthis asserted that it was an Israeli target.
Israel’s government denounced the incident as an “Iranian act of terrorism” and claimed that the orders for the hijacking originated in Tehran.
The Galaxy Leader is registered in the Bahamas, owned by the U.K.’s Isle of Man-based Galaxy Maritime, and operated by Japan’s Nippon Yusen corporation, known as NYK Line. According to the Japanese company, the ship had no cargo on board at the time of the hijacking, and the crew of 25 consisted of individuals from Bulgaria, Mexico, Ukraine, Romania, and the Philippines, with no Israeli crew members.
The ship’s indirect Israeli connection is that Galaxy Maritime is a subsidiary of Ray Car Carriers, founded by Israeli billionaire Abraham “Rami” Ungar. The Houthis, supported by Iran, considered this connection sufficient to target the vessel and carry out the attack while it was navigating a major shipping route in international waters.
The Houthis declared that all ships related to or dealing with Israel would be considered legitimate targets.
The insurgents announced that they would treat the captive crew “in accordance with Islamic principles and values.”
Chief Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdul-Salam emphasized that the Israelis only comprehend “the language of force.”
The ship has reportedly been taken to a Yemeni port.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office characterized the incident as “another Iranian act of terrorism,” underscoring its implications for global shipping route security.
The IDF clarified that the vessel was not Israeli-owned.
The Japanese government condemned the hijacking and stated that it was in negotiations with the Houthis to secure the release of the crew. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno expressed strong condemnation of the act and called on countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Iran to press the Houthis to release the ship and its crew promptly.