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the filmed hacking of a commercial ship in the Red Sea aims to bring the Houthis into the alliance against Israel

Sunday saw a rather astonishing scene, the hijacking of a commercial ship in the Red Sea by a commando of Houthi rebels. This highly precise military action is claimed by the organization as retaliation for the war waged by Israel against Hamas.


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The Houthis seized the cargo ship Galaxy Leader transiting the Red Sea, after threatening to target all vessels owned or operated by Israeli companies.  Photo issued on November 20, 2023 by the Houthi Media Center.  (HOUTHIS MEDIA CENTER / HANDOUT / MAXPPP)

A commando action, documented as a communications operation, was carried out on Sunday, November 19, by Houthi fighters against a commercial ship in the Red Sea. The crew was taken prisoner and the ship was hijacked towards the Yemeni coast. According to the general staff, which operates from southern Yemen, this is a reprisal against the war waged by Israel against Hamas.

Cameras everywhere

With micro cameras fixed everywhere, under the belly of the helicopter which flies over the ship before landing gently, very close to the navigation bridge. Cameras on the soldiers’ helmets then film how the attackers threaten the 22 crew members, Bulgarians and Filipinos, and take them prisoner without a single shot being fired. Then they announce by radio transmission from the engine room the success of the operation. Thus is shown the boarding of a commercial fleet vessel, operated by a Japanese company but owned by a British company, belonging to an Israeli businessman.

Japan, the United States and Israel today condemn the seizure of this ship, but there is no doubt that only Israel is targeted in this story. This is confirmed by the immediate demand, from Yemen, of the high command of the Houthi rebellion: “With the help of Almighty God, the army’s naval forces carried out a military operation in the Red Sea, the result of which was the seizure of an Israeli ship and its transfer to a Yemeni port.”

Iran and the Shiite axis

A few weeks ago, a salvo of ballistic missiles was fired by the Houthi rebellion from Yemen, towards the city of Eilat, in southern Israel, and intercepted by an American destroyer. These shots potentially covering nearly 2,000 kilometers are considered by experts to be a technological feat and are probably of Iranian manufacture.

The Houthi rebellion, a Shiite armed group which has professionalized itself in the conflict in Yemen, is an organization which has continued to grow militarily since 2015 and its entry into rebellion against Yemeni loyalist forces. This ongoing war saw the Houthis manage to conquer the capital Sanaa in 2014. And the strategic port of Hodeida, located very close to the site of the piracy, is located in the Bab El Mandeb Strait. All this being done, it is official, thanks to the financial and military support of Iran.

Increased weight in their demands in Yemen

Thus, all observers today speak of the Houthis as relays for Iran. In the same way as Hezbollah, Hamas, or pro-Iranian militias, more confidential but very active in Iraq and Syria, where they attacked several American bases, the Houthis are today almost structured like a professional army. At the end of October, the parade of Houthi armed forces in the streets of Sanaa proved this. State-of-the-art equipment, armored vehicles, drones, long-range “Toofan” missiles, made in Iran, and above all 30,000 men.

According to strategy analysts, the Houthis are mainly seeking to strengthen their position in peace talks with Saudi Arabia, which supports the officially recognized government of Yemen. But current operations are also about showing their weight and informing Israelis and Westerners that Iran and its allies have the means to reach southern Israel while controlling the Red Sea.

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