Houthi rebels seize India-bound cargo ship in Red Sea

Yemen’s Houthi rebels has seized a cargo ship that was on its way to India. The ship which was linked to Israel in the Red Sea, has sparking concerns of escalating regional tensions amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. The rebels, reportedly backed by Iran, had earlier threatened to target Israeli-linked vessels in the Red Sea. Last month, they were suspected of launching missiles and drones in the same crucial shipping lane.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office condemned the seizure of the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader, a vehicle carrier, as an “Iranian act of terror,” with the Israeli military labeling it a “very grave incident of global consequence.”

The ship, carrying 25 crew members of various nationalities, was en route from Korfez, Turkey, to Pipavav, India, at the time of the hijacking.

While Israeli officials insisted the ship was British-owned and Japanese-operated, public shipping databases associated the owners with Ray Car Carriers, founded by Abraham “Rami” Ungar, one of Israel’s wealthiest individuals. Ungar acknowledged the incident but refrained from commenting until further details emerged.

International shipping complexities involving management companies, flags, and owners worldwide were highlighted, adding a layer of intricacy to the situation.

 A ship linked to Ungar had previously experienced an explosion in the Gulf of Oman in 2021, with Israeli media attributing it to Iran. The vessel had its Automatic Identification System tracker switched off, a practice sometimes employed for safety or security reasons.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations reported the hijacking approximately 150 kilometers off Yemen’s port city of Hodeida, near the Eritrean coast.

The Red Sea, a vital trade route from Egypt’s Suez Canal to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, remains crucial for global shipping and energy supplies, prompting the deployment of U.S. Navy ships since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7.