AN ISRAELI-owned cargo ship has reportedly been hijacked by an Iran-backed militia group.
There are 25 people reportedly on board the Galaxy Leader vehicle carrier when she was seized.
It comes after the Houthis – based in Yemen – vowed they would target all ships owned by Israel or flying their flag in the Red Sea.
Galaxy Leader was travelling in the Red Sea southwest of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, more than a day ago.
The vessel had been in Korfez, Turkey, and was on its way to Pipavav, India, at the time of the seizure reported by Israel.
United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations put the hijacking as having occurred some 90 miles off the coast of Yemen’s port city of Hodeida, near the coast of Eritrea.
The hijack comes after Iran-backed Houthis vowed to target Israeli-linked vessels in the Red Sea.
However, the IDF went on to deny the ship belonged to Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the capture of the cargo as “terrorism”.
The exact ownership of ships is often difficult to discern due to various different companies owning stakes in or leasing the vessels.
Various media outlets have reported the ship is owned by Israeli shipping businessman Abraham “Rami” Ungar.
Forbes Israel ranked the tycoon as one of the 100 richest people in Israel, with a net worth of $3.2 billion.
Israeli officials insisted the Bahaman-flagged ship was British-owned and Japanese-operated.
However, ownership details in public shipping databases associated the ships owners with Ray Car Carriers, which was founded by the Israeli mogul.
Ungar told The Associated Press he was aware of the incident but couldn’t comment as he awaited details.
The complex world of international shipping often involves a series of management companies, flags and owners stretching across the globe in a single vessel.
A ship linked to Ungar experienced an explosion in 2021 in the Gulf of Oman. Israeli media blamed it on Iran at the time.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said 25 crew members of various nationalities, including Bulgarians, Filipinos, Mexicans and Ukrainians, but no Israelis had been on board the hijacked ship.
Galaxy Leader reportedly had not reported its position to ship tracking services for 26 hours.
The Bahamas-flagged vessel is believed to have been in the Red Sea when it was attacked by the Houthis.
Lebanon-based outlet Al Mayadeen reported there were 52 people on board the ship when it was seized.
Other reports stated the number of crew was 22.
In a statement, Netanyahu’s office said: “[This] is another act of Iranian terrorism which expresses a leap forward in Iran’s aggression against the citizens of the free world, and creates international implications regarding the security of global shipping lanes.”
Netanyahu’s office said the ship was owned by a British company and operated by one from Japan.
Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said: “The hijacking of the cargo ship by the Houthis near Yemen in the southern Red Sea is a very serious event on a global level.
“This is a ship that left Turkey on its way to India with an international civilian crew, without Israelis.”
But he insisted the ship was not Israeli.
Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi threatened to seize shipping in a rant last week.
He said: “Our eyes are open to constantly monitor and search for any Israeli ship in the Red Sea.”
The group’s spokesman said they would issue a statement in the coming hours after the reports of the hijacked ship.
The rebel group have made several missile and drone attacks against Israel since the massacre by Hamas on October 7.
They control Yemen and its coast along the Red Sea.
It is widely believed they receive support from Iran – and often operate as one of its proxies.
Iran is believed to actively arm the group, and even provide them with potential targets.
Houthi involvement stokes fears that the war in Gaza could spiral out into the wider Middle East.
Israel continues their campaign against Hamas after terrorists slaughtered some 1,200 Israelis – including entire families and children.
Hostages were also taken back into the Gaza Strip – a narrow area of land in southern Israel.
The last month has seen Israel mount an increasingly intense military campaign to destroy the terror group and free the hostages.
It pushed the already fragile Middle East to the brink of new large-scale war – but so far the conflict has remained in Gaza.
Palestinian civilians have been left fleeing for their lives amid Israel’s intense campaign.
Families living in Gaza have been caught in the brutal crossfire, with regular accusations that the terrorists are attempting to use them as “human shields”.
Much of the northern part of the strip has been turned into a devastated warzone – with ruined buildings, dwindling supplies and horrific suffering for Gaza’s people.
According to The Red Cross, some 1.5 million civilians have been forced to flee south amid the Israeli onslaught from land, air and sea.
Figures for the death toll remain unverified – but Hamas’ health officials claim more than 11,000 civilians, including more than 4,500 children have been killed.
Israel disputes these figures – and US President Joe Biden said he had “no confidence” in them.
But Benjamin Netanyahu admitted Israel has “not been successful” in reducing civilian casualties.
He said the deaths, however, must be blamed on Hamas – not Israel.
And as the horror continues there have been growing calls for a humanitarian ceasefire to stop the bloodshed.
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