By Shoko Oda
A Israeli-owned ship seized in the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in retaliation for the war in Gaza is raising fears over more widespread disruption in one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
The Galaxy Leader, beneficially owned by a unit of Israeli businessman Rami Ungar’s Ray Shipping Group, was taken in the southern part of the Red Sea on Sunday. A spokesperson for the Houthis said Israeli ships would continue to be targeted until the military operation against Hamas ends.
Ships have often been caught up in the tensions between various groups in West Asia, at times disrupting flows of energy and other goods. The Houthis have regularly claimed attacks in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman. They have also targeted sites in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia with drones and missiles — including in 2019 when they briefly knocked out half the kingdom’s oil production.
But the oil market on Monday shrugged off the latest seizure of the ship that’s used to transport vehicles as traders focused on a key OPEC meeting this weekend. Natural gas in Europe rose initially but gave up some of the gains.
Iran denied any role in the seizure, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani saying resistance groups in the Middle East make and implement their own decisions based on their own interests.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office condemned the action. The action in the Red Sea represents a “significant escalation of tensions,” said Kenneth Loh, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst covering shipping and logistics.
First Published: Nov 20 2023 | 11:33 PM IST