GG News Bureau
New Delhi, 21st Nov. The rebel group in Yemen known as the Houthis seized a ship bound for India on Sunday, November 19. This has raised concerns about the Gaza conflict taking on another dimension. The Houthis used helicopters to descend on the ship and took all 25 crew members hostage. The rebels have stated that they are treating the crew members in accordance with Islamic values.
Israel has claimed that the ship is British-owned and Japanese-operated, and they have labeled the hijacking as “another Iranian act of terrorism.”
Why was the ship hijacked?
The ship, named Galaxy Leader, was traveling from Turkey to Pipavav in Gujarat and did not have any cargo on board. The crew members are from Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Mexico, and the Philippines.
The hijacking is in line with the Houthis’ previous statement, where they declared that they would attack Israel-linked ships in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb strait if Israel continued its violence in Palestine.
“Our eyes are open to constantly monitor and search for any Israeli ship in the Red Sea, especially in Bab al-Mandab, and near Yemeni regional waters,” said Abdulmalik al-Houthi, the leader of the group, in a broadcast speech last week, as reported by Reuters.
After the hijacking, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the Houthis’ chief negotiator and spokesman, stated in an online statement that the Israelis only understand “the language of force.”
How has Israel responded and why is Japan involved?
Israel has stated that they do not own or operate the ship, and none of the crew members are from Israel.
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the hijacking as “another Iranian act of terrorism” and emphasized its significance in terms of global shipping route security.
However, the ship does have connections to an Israeli billionaire named Abraham “Rami” Ungar, who is associated with Ray Car Carriers, one of the richest men in Israel. In 2021, a ship linked to Ungar was involved in an explosion in the Gulf of Oman, which Israeli media attributed to Iran.
The Galaxy Leader was operated by the Japanese company Nippon Yusen. Japanese officials have condemned the hijacking and are negotiating with the Houthis. They are also seeking assistance from Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Iran to secure the release of the ship and its crew.
Who are the Houthis and why are they involved?
The Houthis are a rebel group that has been engaged in a civil war with the Yemeni government for nearly a decade. They currently hold power in northern Yemen, including the official capital Sanaa, while the official government operates from Aden.
The group is named after the Houthi tribe and consists of Zaydi Shias who receive support from Iran. The Yemeni government, on the other hand, is backed by Saudi Arabia and the West. The Houthis’ opposition to Israel and the West fuels their support for “brothers and sisters in Palestine.” They possess a significant fighting force with tens of thousands of fighters and a large arsenal of ballistic missiles and armed drones, according to Reuters. Although the Houthi stronghold is too far from Israel to pose a direct threat, they have been launching missiles towards the “enemy country.”
The main concern regarding the Houthis’ involvement is the potential for the conflict to escalate and draw in Iran. If Israel were to retaliate by attacking Houthi territory, its rockets would have to pass over Saudi Arabia, potentially involving the powerful Muslim country in the conflict. The seizure of vessels in the sea could also implicate other countries with interests in maritime trade in the region.