Yemen's Houthi rebels seized an Israeli-linked cargo ship in a crucial Red Sea shipping route on Sunday, officials said, taking over two dozen crew members hostage and raising fears that regional tensions heightened over the Israel-Hamas war were playing out on a new maritime front.
The Iran-backed Houthi rebels said they hijacked the ship over its connection to Israel and took the crew as hostages. The group warned that it would continue to target ships in international waters that were linked to or owned by Israelis until the end of Israel's campaign against Gaza's Hamas rulers.
“All ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets,” the Houthis said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office had blamed the Houthis for the attack on the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader, a vehicle carrier affiliated with an Israeli billionaire. It said the 25 crew members had a range of nationalities, including Bulgarian, Filipino, Mexican and Ukrainian, but that no Israelis had been on board.
The Houthis said they were treating the crew members “in accordance with their Islamic values,” but did not elaborate on what that meant.
Netanyahu's office condemned the seizure as an “Iranian act of terror." The Israeli military called the hijacking a “very grave incident of global consequence."
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