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Houthis seize Israel-linked ship in Red Sea

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HODEIDA: Israeli ships are a “legitimate target”, Yemen’s Houthis warned on Monday, after their seizure of an Israel-linked cargo vessel opened a new dimension in the ongoing unrest in the region.

Sunday’s capture of the Galaxy Leader and its 25 international crew came days after the Houthis threatened to target Israeli shipping over the Israeli aggression against Gazans.

The Houthis, declaring themselves part of the “axis of resistance”, have also launched a series of drones and missiles towards Israel.

“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 the group’s Al-Massirah TV station.

Analysts also said Houthi threats to shipping around the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a choke-point at the foot of the commercially vital Red Sea, were likely to rise. The Bahamas-flagged, British-owned Galaxy Leader is operated by a Japanese firm but has links to Israeli businessman Abraham “Rami” Ungar.

Japan says ‘directly approaching’ Yemeni group; Iran denies involvement

Sunday’s ship seizure “is only the beginning,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said on Sunday in a statement posted on X, pledging further maritime attacks until Israel halts its attacks on Gaza.

The Japanese government said that it “strongly condemns” the seizure of a Japanese-operated ship in the Red Sea. Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said Tokyo was “directly approaching the Houthis” as well as communicating with Israel.

“We are also urging Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran and other countries concerned to strongly urge the Houthis for the early release of the vessel and crew members,” she said.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu characterised the capture as an “Iranian attack against an international vessel”, an accusation dismissed by Iran.

“We have repeatedly announced that the resistance groups in the region represent their countries and make decisions and act based on the interests of their countries,” said Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani.

On Monday, Yemen’s Houthis released video footage showing armed men dropping from a helicopter and seizing a cargo ship in the southern Red Sea. The footage was released by the movement’s TV channel Al Masirah.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2023


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