Yemen’s Houthi rebels hijack British-owned cargo ship in the Red Sea

The ‘Galaxy Leader’, pictured in 2008, has been seized by Houthi rebels (AP)
The ‘Galaxy Leader’, pictured in 2008, has been seized by Houthi rebels (AP)

A cargo ship has been hijacked in the Red Sea by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels from Yemen, with up to 22 crew members believed to have been taken hostage.

The ship is registered under a British company and is partly owned by an Israeli businessman, according to reports. The vessel is Bahaman-flagged and leased to a Japanese company. It was intercepted as it travelled past the Arabian peninsula on its way to India. The ship is believed to be the Galaxy Leader.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) has said there were no citizens from Israel on board and denied the ship was Israeli, but described it as a “grave incident”.

Israel has recently come under attack from the Houthis, an ally of Tehran, with long-range missiles and drone salvoes launched in solidarity with the Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Last week, the Houthi leader said his forces would make further attacks on Israel and they could target Israeli ships in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait.

In a statement on social media site X, the IDF said: “The hijacking of a cargo ship by the Houthis near Yemen in the southern Red Sea is a very grave incident of global consequence.

“The ship departed Turkey on its way to India, staffed by civilians of various nationalities, not including Israelis. It is not an Israeli ship.”

The Houthi rebels confirmed they had been responsible for the hijacking and said they had diverted the ship to Yemen.

“We are treating the ship’s crew in accordance with Islamic principles and values,” a spokesperson of the group’s military said in a statement.

A US defence official said “we’re aware of the situation and are closely monitoring it”.

Meanwhile, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “This is another Iranian act of terrorism that represents an escalation in Iran’s belligerence against the citizens of the free world, with concomitant international ramifications vis-à-vis the security of global shipping routes.”

The vessel had been in Korfez, Turkey, and was on its way to Pipavav, India, at the time of the seizure reported Israel.