Yemen-based gunmen landed by helicopter on a cargo carrier before seizing control of the vessel, dramatic footage has shown
Yemen's Houthi movement released dramatic footage on Monday showing gunmen seizing control of an Israeli-linked cargo ship in the Red Sea after landing on the vessel by helicopter. The raid appears to be the first of its kind by the rebel group, which has effectively declared war on Israel over its siege of Gaza.
The two-minute video starts with a lightly-armed helicopter, apparently a version of a Mil Mi-17Sh transport craft, which is decorated with the flags of Palestine and the Houthi movement. It approaches the ship, the Galaxy Leader, and hovers over it before landing for several seconds.
The gunmen jump off and take a formation on deck, before quickly moving to secure the bridge. The footage then cuts to a fighter on the lower decks brandishing a handgun and shouting "Allahu Akbar" in apparent triumph.
The hijacking took place off the Yemeni coast near the port of Hodeida, as the Galaxy Leader was sailing for India. The ship is a Bahamian-flagged, Japanese-operated vehicle carrier and had 25 crew members aboard at the time of the incident, according to operator NYK Line.
The militants targeted the ship due to its purported links to Israel, although the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied any connection as it condemned the hijacking. Public records cited by the Associated Press say the British owner of the vessel, Ray Car Carriers, was founded by shipping magnate Abraham 'Rami' Ungar, one of richest men in Israel and a supporter of right-wing causes.
Yemen has no fully functional central government, but the Ansar Allah movement, as the Houthis are formally known, controls the capital Sanaa and has access to state-level military technology. Between 2015 and 2022, the Shiite rebel group fought a war against a Saudi-led coalition of Arab nations that sought to reinstall Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi as Yemeni president.
Iran was allegedly instrumental in bolstering Houthi military capabilities during the conflict. In April, Tehran released footage of its own commando raid on a US-bound oil tanker, which it detained over an alleged collision incident.
In late October, a Houthi spokesperson announced missiles had been launched at Israeli targets in support of the Palestinian cause, and accused Arab governments of "colluding" with West Jerusalem. The US Navy used air defense weapons to intercept attacks from Yemen in direct action to defend Israel.
A US military MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down off the Yemen coast earlier this month, with officials blaming the Houthis. The group later released purported footage of the intercept.