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British-owned cargo ship 'hijacked by Iran-backed Yemeni militia' with 25 people on board
19 November 2023, 16:48
A British-owned cargo ship has been hijacked in the Red Sea by a Yemeni militia group said to be backed by Iran, with dozens of crew members on board.
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The Galaxy Leader cargo ship was seized by the Houthi group near Yemen while it was travelling to India.
Some 25 crew members are said to be on board. Israel called it a terror attack, and a "very grave incident of global consequence".
The ship is registered to a British company, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Some reports have claimed the Galaxy Leader is ultimately owned by Israeli businessman Abraham Ungar.
The ship is Bahamas-flagged, and has been leased out to a Japanese company. No British or Israeli people are thought to be among the crew.
A spokesperson for the Houthis, who have been periodically attacking Israel since the start of the conflict, said the militia would target ships owned or operated by Israeli companies or carrying the Israeli flag.
They said that other countries should withdraw their citizens from Israeli ships. Among the people on board are thought to be Bulgarians, Filipinos and Mexicans.
The IDF said: "The hijacking of a cargo ship by the Houthis near Yemen in the southern Red Sea is a very grave incident of global consequence.
"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 189-metre ship's last registered position, at around midday on Saturday, was in the south of the Red Sea, close to Port Sudan.
The Red Sea is a vital shipping lane for global trade, and Mr Netanyahu said that the hijacking could have "international implications" for security.
Mr Netanyahu said: "We strongly condemn the Iranian attack against an international ship.
"The ship, owned by a British company and operated by a Japanese company, was hijacked on Iranian whim by the Houthi militia in Yemen.
"On board the ship are 25 crew members of different nationalities, including: Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos and Mexicans.
"No Israelis were present on the ship.
"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."
Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi threatened that the group would target ships last week.
He said: "Our eyes are open to constantly monitor and search for any Israeli ship in the Red Sea."
The Houthis are a rebel group that controls northern Yemen, a country at the base of the Arabian peninsula to the south of Saudi Arabia.
They have long called for the destruction of Israel, but did not act on this until the start of the war in Gaza.
The Houthis have since fired several rockets at Israel and launched drone attacks, but have caused little damage.
The hijacking comes after Qatar said that Israel and Hamas come close to completing a deal to free the terror group's hostages.
The Gulf state has been involved in trying to free a number of the 240 people held by Hamas in Gaza.
They were kidnapped in the October 7 massacre, when more than 1,000 Israelis were killed.
A deal - which was partially thrashed out with American involvement - would see Israel call a temporary ceasefire in its invasion of the territory, where it is besieging Gaza city in a bid to destroy Hamas's ability to harm its people.
Qatar's prime minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said: "The challenges that remain in the negotiations are very minor compared to the bigger challenges.
"They are more logistical, they are more practical."
Mr Netanyahu said there is no agreement yet and has denied calls for a complete ceasefire.