Japan-Operated Ship Seized by Houthi Rebels Off Yemen as Part of Iran-Backed Group’s Fight against Israel

AP file photo
The Galaxy Leader is seen at the port of Koper, Slovenia, on Sept. 16, 2008.

JERUSALEM — A ship operated by Nippon Yusen Kaisha, better known as NYK Line, has been seized by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea off Yemen, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said Sunday.

The Bahamian-flagged cargo vessel is a pure car and truck carrier called Galaxy Leader, owned by a British company. NYK said the ship had no cargo and was heading to India from Europe. There were 25 crew members on board, and NYK is looking into their condition.

“We strongly condemn the act,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Monday in Tokyo during a press conference, adding that there were no Japanese crew members on board.

The Houthis, an Iran-backed rebel group in Yemen, have sporadically attacked Israel with missiles and drones since the start of fighting between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas, also backed by Iran.

Matsuno told reporters that Japan has demanded the Houthis to release the vessel and its crew, and has been working on the issue with Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia among other countries in the Middle East.

AFP reported that Yemeni shipping sources said the seized ship was taken to a port in Hodeida in the country’s west.

On Nov. 14, the Houthis had warned of military action targeting Israeli ships in the Red Sea. A Houthi spokesperson issued a statement saying that the group seized an Israeli ship.

The Houthi spokesperson said that the group intended to target all Israeli-related vessels until Israel ceases its invasion of Gaza. The fighting in Gaza has expanded into the surrounding waters, affecting international maritime transportation.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said the seized vessel was not Israeli-flagged and that the crew were Ukrainians, Filipinos, Mexicans and other nationals who were not Israelis.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s s Office said the seizure was “another act of Iranian terrorism.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun