Houthi Rebels Seize Israeli-Linked Cargo Ship in Red Sea Escalating Maritime Tensions

The Galaxy Leader cargo ship is seen escorted by Houthi boats.(Houthi Military Media via Reuters)

In a move that has heightened regional tensions, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have released footage capturing the dramatic moment their gunmen commandeered the Galaxy Leader, an Israeli-linked cargo ship, in the crucial Red Sea shipping route. The video reveals Houthi gunmen descending onto the moving vessel from a helicopter, marking an alarming escalation in the conflict.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the ship’s hijacking on Sunday, citing its connection to Israel as the primary motive. The rebels declared their intention to target ships with links to Israel until the cessation of Israel’s campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

The footage showcases several gunmen rappelling onto the Galaxy Leader, operated by NYK Line and affiliated with an Israeli billionaire, a vehicle carrier owned by Isle of Man-registered Galaxy Maritime Ltd. The Houthi group has taken the ship’s 25 crew members hostage, further exacerbating fears of a new maritime front in the ongoing regional tensions.

Isle of Man-registered Galaxy Maritime Ltd reported that the ship is now located in the Hodeidah port area in Yemen after losing all communications. Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the chief negotiator and spokesman for the Houthis, stated that the detention of the Israeli-linked ship is a practical step, demonstrating the seriousness of the Yemeni armed forces in waging a sea battle.

The Houthi rebels explicitly declared that all ships associated with Israel or dealing with it will be considered legitimate targets, signaling a concerning expansion of the conflict beyond land borders. The rebels emphasize their commitment to using force, asserting that it is the only language Israel understands.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office swiftly condemned the seizure, labeling it as an “Iranian act of terror.” While the ship’s Japanese operator, NYK Line, clarified that the vessel had no cargo at the time of the hijacking, concerns are rising over the safety and well-being of the multinational crew, which includes members from the Philippines, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and Mexico.

The incident underscores the complexity of the regional geopolitical landscape, with the Red Sea serving as a critical trade route for global shipping and energy supplies. The international community is closely monitoring developments, as maritime tensions between the Houthi rebels and Israel introduce a new dimension to the ongoing conflicts in the region.