Two days after an India-bound cargo ship was captured by Houthis in the southern Red Sea, the Iran-backed militia group warned that all Israeli ships were a "legitimate target". This came just after the Houtis released a video showing armed men dropping from a helicopter and seizing the Bahamas-flagged 'The Galaxy Leader'.
The Houthis claim to be acting as part of the "axis of resistance" against Israel, which includes Iran-backed terror groups in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. "Israeli ships are legitimate targets for us anywhere… and we will not hesitate to take action," Major General Ali Al-Moshki, a Houthi military official, told reporters.
Another Houthi leader warned that Sunday’s ship seizure "was only the beginning" and pledged further maritime attacks until Israel halts its Gaza campaign.
The Houthis also released a video via TV channel Al Masirah showing armed men boarding the ship by rappelling or sliding down a rope from a helicopter — the method used by Iran during previous vessel seizures in the Strait of Hormuz.
Unbelievable footage from the Houthi seizure of the Israeli-owned ship "Galaxy Leader" in the Red Sea yesterday.— Séamus Malekafzali (@Seamus_Malek) November 20, 2023
A helicopter, emblazoned with the flags of Yemen and Palestine, drops a Houthi squad onto the ship, wearing Palestinian flag headbands and photos of Hamas' spokesman. pic.twitter.com/4DAHKA88r9
Meanwhile, the vessel owner of The Galaxy Leader said all communications were subsequently lost with the vessel. Galaxy Maritime Ltd said in a statement that the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader's crew is made up of nationals from Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Philippines, Mexico and Romania, Galaxy Maritime said. The company will not be commenting further on the political or geopolitical situation.
The Bahamas-flagged British-owned Galaxy Leader is operated by a Japanese firm but has links to Israeli businessman Abraham "Rami" Ungar.
Meanwhile, the United States has denounced the ship's seizure as a breach of international law and demanded the immediate release of the vessel and its crew. "The Houthi seizure of the motor vessel Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea is a flagrant violation of international law," U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told a briefing.
"We demand the immediate release of the ship and its crew and we will consult with our allies and U.N. partners as to appropriate next steps."
Two commercial ships diverted their course in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden following the threat by Houthis. These ships too had links to the same maritime group whose vessel was seized by Houthis, according to shipping data and British maritime security company Ambrey.
The Glovis Star and Hermes Leader diverted their sailing routes on Sunday. The Hermes Leader had set a course to sail south of Nishtun in Yemen when it diverted its journey. "The vessel continued to sail back to where it had come from, providing a new AIS destination as Hambantota, Sri Lanka," Ambrey said.
"The vessel incurred a minimum four-day business disruption and sailed an additional 1,876 nautical miles." The Glovis Star drifted for several hours in the Red Sea before continuing its journey, AIS ship tracking data showed on Monday.