Iran’s foreign ministry on Monday denied Israeli claims that Tehran was involved in the seizure of a British-owned and Japanese-operated cargo ship in the Red Sea by Yemen's Houthis.
"We have said multiple times that resistance groups in the region act independently and spontaneously based on their interests and that of their people," foreign ministry's spokesman Naser Kanaani said at a press briefing. He added that Israeli claims were aimed at diverting attention away from Israeli's "irreparable defeat" in its battle against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli Prime Minister's Office issued a statement after the hijacking, calling it "an act of Iranian terrorism that expresses a leap in their aggression", asserting that "no Israelis were present on the ship and the ship is owned by a British company operated by a Japanese company."
"This is 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-a-vis the security of global shipping routes."
The alleged Houthi attack comes after calls by Iran’s leader Ali Khamenei to ban shipment of oil and food to Israel. His call was repeated by his ultra-hardliner loyalists such as Hossein Shariatmadari, who runs the Kayhan Daily newspaper in Tehran.
The hijacked ship is Galaxy Leader, registered under a British company, which is partially owned by Israeli tycoon Abraham Ungar who goes by Rami. He is the founder of Ray Shipping Ltd., and is known as one of the richest men in Israel. The vessel was leased out to a Japanese company at the time of the hijacking.
The Houthis, an ally of Tehran, have been launching long-range missile and drone salvoes at Israel in solidarity with the Palestinian Hamas militants fighting in Gaza.