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images of Houthi rebels boarding a ship they thought was Israeli

While the Japanese authorities are demanding the release of the 25 crew members, the rebels assure that they “will continue to carry out military operations against the Israeli enemy.”

This is one of the repercussions of the conflict between Hamas and Israel. On Monday, Japan announced that it would approach Houthi leaders in Yemen a day after the Iranian-backed rebels captured a cargo ship in the Red Sea with 25 crew members, chartered by a Japanese group and whose owner is Israeli.

In images provided by the rebels, a helicopter lands on the building, then in the open sea, and around ten armed rebels deploy on the ship before reaching the command room. While the crew members are taken hostage, the boat is guided to a port held by the Houthis.

A Houthi rebel helicopter lands on a ship in the Red Sea, November 2023
A Houthi rebel helicopter lands on a ship in the Red Sea, November 2023 © BFMTV

A few days earlier, the Houthis had threatened to target Israeli ships in this strategic sea located between northeast Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, in retaliation for Israel’s war against Hamas in the Strip. Gaza. The war was started by the unprecedented attack by the Palestinian movement on Israeli soil on October 7.

The cargo ship seized Sunday is operated by a Japanese company, prompting Tokyo to intervene directly with the rebels.

Yemen: they believe they are hijacking an Israeli boat – 20/11
Yemen: they believe they are hijacking an Israeli boat – 20/11

Japan “communicates with Israel and, in addition to direct contacts with the Houthis, we urge Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran and other relevant countries to press the Houthis to quickly release the ship and crew members,” Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said Monday. Israel, Japan and the United States condemned the seizure of the ship.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Sunday that the ship was owned by a British company and operated by a Japanese group.

Nippon Yusen, also known as NYK Line (Japan), confirmed to AFP on Monday that it operates the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader: “The Galaxy Leader, a car-carrying vessel that we charter from the company, was captured” near the coast of Hodeida, in western Yemen.

The Japanese company said it had formed a special team to collect information and ensure the safety of the 25 crew members.

For its part, the maritime security company Ambrey specified that the owner of the boat was Ray Car Carriers, whose parent company belongs to Israeli businessman Abraham Rami Ungar.

“Global consequences”

The Houthis, who control much of Yemen at war, “will continue to carry out military operations against the Israeli enemy until the aggression against Gaza and the heinous crimes against our Palestinian brothers in Gaza and the West Bank “stop,” warned Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree on X (formerly Twitter).

A threat reiterated Monday by the deputy chief of the Houthi general staff, General Ali Al-Moshki, to the Al-Massirah television channel: “Israeli ships are legitimate targets for us, wherever they are” .

The Israeli army said on Sunday that the hijacking of a cargo ship by the Houthis was “a very serious incident that had global consequences,” in a message on its X account.

She said the ship had left Turkey bound for India and that on board were “civilians of various nationalities, but no Israelis.”

Benjamin Netanyahu’s office “strongly condemned the Iranian attack on an international ship”, saying that the boat had been “hijacked under the direction of Iran by the Yemeni Houthi militia”.

“Flagrant violation of international law”

Iran on Monday rejected the accusations, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani saying that “the resistance groups in the region represented their country, that they made their decisions and acted based on the interests of their country”.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said the ship’s crew consisted of 25 members of various nationalities, including Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos and Mexicans.

A US military source called the seizure of the ship a “blatant violation of international law”, adding that Washington would contact its allies and the UN to discuss “appropriate” measures to take.

The Houthis are part of what they describe as an “axis of resistance” against Israel, which includes groups supported by Iran, such as Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah.

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