A cargo ship from Turkey, on its way to India, was hijacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the Red Sea on Sunday, reported the Associated Press. The vessel’s 25 crew members were taken hostage.
Iran-backed Houthis said they took the ship over its connection to Israel. They would continue to target ships linked to or owned by Israelis in international waters until the end of Israel’s war on Gaza, they said.
“The detention of the Israeli ship is a practical step that proves the seriousness of the Yemeni armed forces in waging the sea battle, regardless of its costs,” said Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the Houthis’ chief negotiator and spokesperson. “This is the beginning.”
Taking to X, formerly known as Twitter, the Israeli Defence Forces confirmed the hijack and called it “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,” the defence forces said. “It is not an Israeli ship.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office condemned the hijacking as an “act of Iranian terrorism”.
“[This] 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,” said Netanyahu’s office.
The prime minister’s office also stated that the ship is owned by a British company and operated by a Japanese firm.
However, public shipping database records show that the ship’s owner is associated to Ray Car Carriers, founded by Abraham “Rami” Ungar, one of the richest men in Israel, according to the Associated Press.
The hijacking came as Israel’s war on Gaza entered its seventh week. So far, over 13,000 Palestinians have been killed in the relentless air and ground strikes from Israeli forces, reported Al Jazeera. Tel Aviv’s actions are in response to an attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on October 7, in which 1,200 Israelis died.
The Houthis had earlier this month claimed responsibility for missile and drone attacks on Israel.