‘A very grave incident’: Israel says Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seize Japanese cargo ship in Red Sea

A Japanese cargo ship flying under a Bahamian flag was hijacked in the southern Red Sea on Sunday, the work of what is believed to be Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

Using a helicopter, the rebels rappelled down to the deck of the Galaxy Leader off the coast of Yemen at around 1 p.m. local time, according to NBC News.

Just days before the hijacking, the Houthis issued a graphic depicting an Israeli commercial ship engulfed in flames with captions in Hebrew, Arabic, and English that said, “We will sink your ships.”

In response to the threat, the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) and Coalition Task Force SENTINEL issued a letter containing recommended procedures for crossing the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb strait between Yemen and Djibouti.

“We continue to be concerned with a heightened threat level in the Red Sea,” the letter stated. “The approaches to the Bab al Mandeb continue to be an area of concern.”

The ISMC advised ships to “transit at night when possible” to “reduce the likelihood of visual identification by malign actors,” but did not specifically mention the Houthis by name.


“When choosing routes, orient toward creating maximum feasible distance from Yemeni waters,” the ISMC instructed commercial vessels.

“We’re aware of the situation and are monitoring it closely,” a U.S. Defense official said, according to NBC News.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) called the seizure of the Galaxy Insider a “very grave incident.”

“The hijacking of a cargo ship by the Houthis near Yemen in the southern Red Sea is a very grave incident of global consequence,” IDF stated on X. “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 office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack in a statement on X.

“Israel strongly condemns the Iranian attack against an international vessel,” it said. “The ship, which is owned by a British company and is operated by a Japanese firm, was hijacked with Iran guidance by the Yemenite Houthi militia.”

Netanyahu’s office confirmed that no Israelis were onboard the Galaxy.

“Onboard the vessel are 25 crew members of various nationalities including Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Filipino and Mexican,” the statement read. “No Israelis are onboard.”

“This is another act of Iranian terrorism and constitutes a leap forward in Iran’s aggression against the citizens of the free world, with international consequences regarding the security of the global shipping lanes.”

Melissa Fine

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