Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists based in Yemen hijacked an Israeli-owed commercial vessel Sunday as it was in international waters. The Bahamas-flagged roll-on-roll-off ship auto-carrier disappeared from tracking systems just before noon GMT (6 a.m. EDT) while transiting the Red Sea in international waters.
It is partially owned by Tel Aviv-based Ray Shipping Ltd, which operates a fleet of 65 pure car and truck carriers (PCTC). It has a crew of 22, none of whom are known to be Israeli.
Yemen’s Houthi terrorist organization, which styles itself “rebel,” claimed responsibility.
The Tehran-backed Houthis released a statement claiming responsibility, with Houthi spokesperson Yahya Saree saying in a statement that the rebels “carried out a military operation in the Red Sea, the results of which were the seizure of an Israeli ship and taking it to the Yemeni coast.”
He said the Houthis were “dealing with the ship’s crew in accordance with the teachings and values of our Islamic religion,” reiterating repeated threats to target any Israel-linked vessels in the Red Sea due to Israel’s “brutal aggression” against Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
This is not the first time Ray Shipping vessels have been targeted.
Iran has attacked two Ray Shipping-owned vessels firing a missile at the Hyperion Ray (IMO: 9690559) on April 13, 2021, and was said to be responsible for an explosion to the Helios Ray (IMO: 9690547) on February 25 earlier that year.
A Houthi spokesman had previously said they would target any ships “carrying the flag of the Zionist entity,” owned by an Israeli company or operated by one.
The Israeli government issued a statement laying the blame for the attack squarely on Iran.
The Prime Minister’s Office identified the vessel as a British ship being operated by a Japanese company that was “hijacked on an Iranian whim by the Houthi militia in Yemen.” It added there were 25 crew members on board from Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Philippines and Mexico, but no Israelis on the ship.
“This is another act of Iranian terrorism which expresses a leap forward in Iranian aggression against citizens of the free world, and creates international implications when it comes to the security of global shipping routes,” the statement said.
There are two messages to be taken from this.
First, Iran intends to expand the scope of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas terrorists to encompass the Red Sea and the approaches to the Persian Gulf. For the moment, they seem content to let the Houthi be their instrument of policy.
Second, this is a direct slap at the US Navy. The USS Bataan and the USS Carter Hall are both on station in the Red Sea. The last reported position of the USS Bataan puts it within easy aircraft and helicopter range of the location of the Galaxy Leader piracy.
The fact that the Houthi did this under the nose of the US Navy doesn’t say much for our deterrent ability.