HODEIDA, (Yemen): Israeli ships are a “legitimate target”, Yemen’s Houthi rebels warned on Monday, after their seizure of an Israel-linked cargo vessel opened a new dimension in the Gaza war.
Sunday’s capture of the Galaxy Leader and its 25 international crew came days after the Iran-backed Houthis threatened to target Israeli shipping over the Israel-Hamas war.
The Houthis, declaring themselves part of the “axis of resistance” of Iran’s allies and proxies, have also launched a series of drones and missiles towards Israel.
“Israeli ships are legitimate targets for us anywhere...and we will not hesitate to take action,” Major General Ali Al-Moshki, a Houthi military official, told the group’s Al-Massirah TV station.
Analysts also said Houthi threats to shipping around the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a choke-point at the foot of the commercially vital Red Sea, were likely to rise.
The Bahamas-flagged, British-owned Galaxy Leader is operated by a Japanese firm but has links to Israeli businessman Abraham “Rami” Ungar.
The Houthis said the capture was in retaliation for Israel’s war against Hamas, sparked by the October 7 attack by the Palestinian militants who killed 1,200 people and took about 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials.
More than 13,000 people have since been killed in Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground operations in the Gaza Strip, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.
Sunday’s ship seizure “is only the beginning,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said Sunday in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, pledging further maritime attacks until Israel halts its Gaza campaign.
Maritime security company Ambrey said it had learned that the rebels boarded the ship by rappelling or sliding down a rope from a helicopter — the method used by Iran during previous vessel seizures in the Strait of Hormuz.