On Monday, Yemen’s Huthi rebels proclaimed that Israeli ships are now considered “legitimate targets” following their seizure of the cargo vessel Galaxy Leader, which has links to Israel. This development introduces a new aspect to the ongoing conflict in Gaza and comes after previous threats by the Iran-backed Houthis to target Israeli shipping amid the Israel-Hamas war.
Major General Ali Al-Moshki, a Huthi military official, stated unequivocally, “Israeli ships are legitimate targets for us anywhere, and we will not hesitate to take action.” Analysts are anticipating an increased threat to shipping in the strategically significant Bab al-Mandab Strait, located in the Red Sea.
The Galaxy Leader, registered in the Bahamas and owned by Britain’s Ray Car Carriers with connections to Israeli businessman Abraham “Rami” Ungar, was seized in retaliation for Israel’s involvement in the conflict with Hamas. The vessel, originally en route from Turkey to India, was redirected to the Yemeni port of Salif.
Huthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam characterized the capture as just the beginning, with the rebels pledging further maritime attacks until Israel ceases its Gaza campaign. The rebels reportedly employed a method similar to Iran’s previous seizures in the Strait of Hormuz to board the ship.
Israel’s military and a US military official condemned the seizure, labeling it a “very grave incident of global consequence” and a “flagrant violation of international law,” respectively. The crew, comprising Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos, Mexicans, and a Romanian, are reportedly under investigation by the Houthis.
As tensions escalate, concerns about maritime security are mounting, especially around the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a crucial shipping lane. The international response involves Japan’s efforts to ensure the crew’s safety, with various countries urging the release of the vessel and expressing apprehensions about potential disruptions to shipping in the region.