Israel has claimed that the reportedly Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels were behind the hijacking of a cargo ship headed from Turkey to India via the Red Sea and added that the vessel was subsequently taken to a port in Yemen.
The vessel, named "The Galaxy Leader" was on its way to Pipavav, Gujarat in India at the time of seizure.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office reportedly said that while the crew did not have a single Israelis citizen, it consisted of 25 crew members of various nationalities, including Bulgarians, Filipinos, Mexicans and Ukrainians.
The Hindu reported that the rebels claimed to have hijacked the ship due to its connection to Israel and added until the end of Israel's offense against Palestinian group Hamas, that they would continue to target vessels in international waters if they are linked to or owned by Israelis
“All ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets,” the Houthi rebels said.
The report added that Netanyahu's office condemned the incident and called it an an “Iranian act of terror," while the country's military called the seizure a “very grave incident of global consequence."
Meanwhile, Israeli officials emphasised that the seized ship was Japanese-operated and British-owned, contrary to public shipping ownership details which name the ship’s owners as Ray Car Carriers, founded by one of the richest men in Israel - Abraham “Rami” Ungar.
In 2021, a vessel associated with Ungar was rocked by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman. Initial reports from Israeli media attributed the incident to Iran. Notably, the ship had deactivated its Automatic Identification System (AIS), a safety protocol for maritime navigation.
Although ships are mandated to maintain active AIS for safety purposes, crews sometimes disable it when they perceive a potential threat or engage in illicit activities, though there was no immediate evidence to suggest smuggling on the Galaxy Leader.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, responsible for issuing warnings to sailors in the Persian Gulf and surrounding areas, pinpointed the hijacking approximately 150 kilometers off the coast of Yemen's port city, Hodeida, in proximity to the Eritrean coast.