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Houthi Rebels Warn Israeli Ships as Yemen Seizes Vessel in Retaliation

In a dramatic escalation of tensions, Houthi rebels in Yemen have issued a warning, declaring Israeli ships as “legitimate targets” following the seizure of an Israel-linked cargo vessel named the Galaxy Leader. This latest development adds a new dimension to the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip.

The Bahamas-flagged and British-owned Galaxy Leader, operated by a Japanese firm but with ties to Israeli businessman Abraham “Rami” Ungar, was captured by Houthi rebels on Sunday, along with its 25-member international crew. The rebels, backed by Iran and positioning themselves as part of the “axis of resistance,” had recently threatened to target Israeli shipping in response to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Major General Ali Al-Moshki, a Houthi military official, conveyed the group’s stance, stating, “Israeli ships are legitimate targets for us anywhere…and we will not hesitate to take action.” The rebels have also launched drones and missiles towards Israel in recent days.

The Houthi threats extend to shipping around the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a crucial choke-point at the southern end of the Red Sea. Analysts predict an increase in such threats, potentially impacting maritime security in the region.

The Galaxy Leader, primarily transporting vehicles and operated by Ray Car Carriers, a subsidiary of Ungar’s parent company, was rerouted from its original course from Turkey to India to the Yemeni port of Salif in Hodeida province. The rebels reportedly boarded the ship using a method resembling Iran’s previous vessel seizures in the Strait of Hormuz – descending from a helicopter using rappelling techniques.

Israel’s military has labeled the seizure as a “very grave incident of global consequence,” while a US military official decried it as “a flagrant violation of international law.” The crew, consisting of Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos, Mexicans, and a Romanian, is reportedly “under investigation” by the Houthis.

The Houthi rebels framed the vessel’s capture as retaliation for Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip, which have resulted in over 13,000 casualties, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Maritime security company Ambrey reported that the Houthi spokesman, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, declared the ship seizure as “only the beginning.” The rebels pledged further maritime attacks until Israel ceases its Gaza campaign.

This incident has wider implications, with the Israeli Prime Minister’s office characterizing it as an “Iranian attack against an international vessel.” However, Iran has dismissed these accusations, emphasizing that regional resistance groups act in their countries’ interests.

As international stakeholders assess the situation, the threat of disruption to shipping in the region is anticipated to rise. The Bab al-Mandab Strait, a vital shipping lane, is responsible for about a fifth of global oil consumption. Security concerns may lead shipping companies to seek alternative routes, resulting in increased costs.

The diplomatic efforts are underway, with Japan engaging directly with the Houthis, and other concerned nations, including Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Iran, being urged to work towards the early release of the vessel and its crew. The repercussions of this maritime incident are likely to reverberate across geopolitical and economic spheres, underscoring the complexities of the regional conflicts involving key global players.

For more updates stay tuned to FELA News!

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