A cargo ship named 'Galaxy Leader' was reportedly hijacked by armed men believed to be Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the Red Sea. The ship, registered under a British company and leased out to a Japanese company, was traveling south past the Arabian peninsula on its way to India when it was boarded. Up to 22 crew members are believed to have been taken hostage.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) confirmed that there were no Israeli citizens on board but described the incident as a "grave incident." The Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran and have been engaged in a civil war against the Yemeni government, had vowed to target ships linked to Israel in retaliation for previous attacks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for the hijacking, although no evidence of Iranian involvement has been provided. The ship's last known location was east of Port Sudan in the Red Sea, and it had its tracking system switched off.
The ship's ownership is associated with Ray Car Carriers and its founder, Israeli tycoon Abraham 'Rami' Ungar. In 2021, another vessel owned by Ray Shipping Ltd, also run by Ungar, was struck by a mystery explosion in the Gulf of Oman.
The Houthi rebels have emerged as a significant military force in the Arabian Peninsula with a large arsenal of ballistic missiles and armed drones. Since the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, they have launched several missile attacks against Israel and its allies.
As Israel continues its military operation in Gaza following the attacks by Hamas, concerns grow about the possibility of the conflict escalating into a wider regional conflict.
The hijacking of the cargo ship adds to the tensions in the region and raises international implications regarding the security of global shipping lanes. The Red Sea remains a crucial trade route for global shipping and energy supplies, making the incident of significant concern to the international community.
The United States military is monitoring the situation, and since 2019, there have been increasing attacks on ships at sea as Iran has disregarded the limits of its nuclear deal with world powers.
Efforts to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas are ongoing, with a focus on the release of civilians held hostage by Hamas. Qatar's prime minister expressed confidence that a deal would soon be reached.