The ship, flying the Bahamian flag, was intercepted by armed individuals as it navigated south past the Arabian Peninsula, en route to India.
The vessel is registered to a British company, partially owned by Israeli businessman Abraham Ungar, and is currently leased to a Japanese firm. This incident occurred shortly after the Iranian-backed Houthi militia, engaged in a protracted civil war against the Yemeni government since the 1990s, pledged to target ships associated with Israel in the Red Sea. This threat was in response to Israel's reaction to the October 7 attacks.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have confirmed that there are no Israeli nationals on board and refuted claims that the ship is Israeli-owned. However, they have labeled the incident as 'grave.' A statement released on social media by the IDF read, "The hijacking of a cargo ship by the Houthis near Yemen in the southern Red Sea is a very grave incident of global consequence. The ship departed Turkey on its way to India, staffed by civilians of various nationalities, not including Israelis. It is not an Israeli ship."
The crew members on board the ship reportedly include individuals of Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Filipino, and Mexican nationalities. According to tracking data available to the public, the ship's last known location was east of Port Sudan in the Red Sea on Saturday.
Abdulmalik al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthis, an Islamist movement that has launched several missile attacks towards Israel in recent weeks, warned of further assaults on the Jewish state. He stated, "Our eyes are open to constantly monitor and search for any Israeli ship in the Red Sea, especially in Bab al-Mandab, and near Yemeni regional water."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pointed the finger at Iran for the hijacking, although he did not provide evidence to substantiate the claim that it was executed on Iranian orders. In a statement, he said, "We strongly condemn the Iranian attack against an international ship," seemingly referring to the Iranian-backed Houthis. He further stated, "This is another act of Iranian terrorism which expresses a leap forward in Iran's aggression against the citizens of the free world, and creates international implications regarding the security of global shipping lanes."
Iran has been supporting and supplying the Houthis, a Shiite faction, in their war against a Saudi-led Sunni coalition in Yemen since 2015. The Houthis have evolved into a significant military force in the Arabian Peninsula, boasting tens of thousands of fighters and a large cache of ballistic missiles and armed drones. The group, which emerged in the 1990s, operates under the slogan "God is great, death to the U.S., death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam."
Since the onset of the conflict between Israel and Hamas following the October 7 terrorist attacks, the Houthis have launched at least six missile attacks against Israel and its allies. This latest hijacking incident underscores the escalating tensions in the region and the potential implications for international shipping lanes.