Iran Denies Involvement in Seizure of Israeli-Linked Red Sea Ship by Yemen’s Houthis
Iran on Monday denied Israeli claims that it was involved in the seizure of a British-owned and Japanese-operated cargo ship in the southern Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthis, an Iranian-backed terrorist organization.
“We have said multiple times that resistance groups in the region act independently and spontaneously based on their interests and that of their people,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Monday at a press conference, adding that Israeli claims were aimed at diverting attention away from Israel’s “irreparable defeat” in its battle against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, Israel said the incident was an “Iranian act of terrorism” with consequences for international maritime security.
The Houthis, an ally of Tehran, said they had seized a ship in the area but described it as Israeli. “We are treating the ship’s crew in accordance with Islamic principles and values,” a spokesperson for the group said. The Yemen-based group reportedly took the ship’s 25 crew members hostage.
“All ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets,” the Houthis said.
The Houthis have been launching long-range missile and drone salvos at Israel in solidarity with the Palestinian Hamas terrorists fighting in Gaza. Last week, the Houthis’ leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, vowed to maintain armed attacks against Israeli targets while bemoaning the “weak stance” of the Muslim world towards the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
According to reports, ownership details in public shipping databases associated the ship’s owners with Ray Car Carriers, founded by Abraham “Rami” Ungar, one of the richest men in Israel. However, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Sunday that no Israelis were on the cargo ship.
Japan’s top government spokesperson on Monday confirmed the capture of the Nippon Yusen-operated ship, Galaxy Leader, adding that Japan was appealing to the Houthis while seeking the help of Saudi, Omani, and Iranian authorities to work toward the swift release of the vessel and its crew.
“We strongly condemn such acts,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference. No Japanese nationals are among the crew, he said.
Galaxy Leader is owned by a company registered under Isle of Man-headquartered Ray Car Carriers, which is a unit of Tel Aviv-incorporated Ray Shipping, according to LSEG data.
Japan’s Nippon Yusen, also known as NYK, said the company had set up a task force to gather more information, including on the safety of the 25 crew, who are from the Philippines, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, and Mexico. The vessel, a car carrier, had been heading toward India from Europe with no cargo, a spokesperson said.
The US was monitoring the situation, a defense official said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said a ship — which it did not name — had been seized. There were no Israelis aboard and Israel was not involved in its ownership or operation, his office said.
“This is another Iranian act of terrorism that represents an escalation in Iran’s belligerence against the citizens of the free world, with concomitant international ramifications vis-a-vis the security of global shipping routes,” his office said.