Yemen-based Houthi militant group released a video footage on Monday claiming that its armed men dropped from a helicopter and seized an Israeli-linked cargo ship, bound to India, in a crucial Red Sea shipping route on Sunday.
The footage was released by the Houthis TV channel Al Masirah. Israel, however, said the seized Galaxy Leader ship was British-owned and Japanese-operated.
HT could not independently verify the authenticity of the video.
Israel on Sunday said the Houthis had 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 had seized a ship in that area but described it as Israeli.
The video shows around 10 armed men were dropped on the deck of the ship. Most of the video appears to be shot through headcameras. The video then shows the armed men seizing control of the bridge from crew members. In a later part of the video purportedly shows some small boats moving around and alongside the ship.
Where is Galaxy Leader ship?
On its whereabouts, the vessel’s owner claimed on Monday that it was “illegally boarded by military personnel via a helicopter” on November 19 and is now in the Hodeidah port area in Yemen.
“All communications were subsequently lost with the vessel,” Isle of Man registered Galaxy Maritime Ltd, owner of the pure car carrier Galaxy Leader, said in a statement. “The company, as a shipping concern, will not be commenting further on the political or geopolitical situation.”
The United States denounced the ship’s seizure as a breach of international law and demanded the immediate release of the vessel and its crew.
“The Houthi seizure 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 with our allies and UN partners as to appropriate next steps,” he added.
The Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader’s 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 represents a 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 by the perpetrators of this criminal act”.
Why did Houthis hijack the ship?
The Iran-backed Houthi militants said they hijacked the ship over its connection to Israel and would continue to target ships in international waters that were linked to or owned by Israelis until the end of Israel’s campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
“All ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets,” the Houthis said.
Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the Houthis’ chief negotiator and spokesman, later added in an online statement that the Israelis only understand “the language of force”.
“The detention of the Israeli ship is a practical step that proves the seriousness of the Yemeni armed forces in waging the sea battle, regardless of its costs and costs,” he added. “This is the beginning.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office had blamed the Houthis for the attack on the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader, a vehicle carrier affiliated with an Israeli billionaire. It said no Israelis were on board.
(With inputs from agencies)