Yemen's Houthis, an Iran-backed rebel group, seized a cargo ship in the southern Red Sea and say they have taken it to a Yemeni port.
'We are treating the ship's crew in accordance with Islamic principles and values,' a spokesperson of the group's military said in a statement. The group said the ship was an Israeli vessel.
The Israeli military said Sunday that the cargo ship was hijacked in the southern Red Sea as it was sailing from Turkey to India, raising the alarm that regional tensions over the Israel-Hamas war are spilling over onto the maritime front.
In a social media post, the Israeli military called the hijacking 'a very grave incident on a global level' but said the vessel is not Israeli-owned.
The ship is British-owned and Japanese-operated, carrying 25 crew members of various nationalities but not Israelis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.
A spokesperson for the Houthi group said earlier Sunday that all ships owned or operated by Israeli companies, or carrying the Israeli flag could be targeted.
Ownership details in public shipping databases associated the ship's owners with Ray Car Carriers, which was founded by Abraham 'Rami' Ungar, who is known as one of the richest men in Israel.
Ungar told The Associated Press he was aware of the incident but couldn't comment as he awaited details.
A ship linked to Ungar experienced an explosion in 2021 in the Gulf of Oman. Israeli media blamed it on Iran at the time.
Netanyahu's office condemned the seizure of the Galaxy Leader, a vehicle carrier, calling it "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-à-vis the security of global shipping routes.'
According to U.S. officials, the hijackers came down on the ship's deck from a helicopter.
The attack off the coast of Yemen comes just days after the Houthis issued a graphic with captions in Hebrew, Arabic and English saying, "we will sink your ships." The graphic showed an Israeli commercial ship on fire.
On Nov. 16, the International Maritime Security Construct, an international group that tries to maintain security in regional waters, issued a warning to all mariners in the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait between Yemen and Djibouti to stay as far away from Yemeni waters as possible and recommended travel at night whenever possible.
A U.S. Defense official said, 'we're aware of the situation and are monitoring it closely."
Some information for this article came from The Associated Press, and Reuters.