A Houthi fighter stands on the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea in this photo released November 20, 2023.

Israeli-Linked Chemical Tanker Seized In Gulf Of Aden

Sunday, 11/26/2023

Unidentified armed men have seized another Israel-linked tanker carrying a cargo of phosphoric acid in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday.

While no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, speculations point to Iran-backed Houthis who have been behind several other maritime attacks in recent days.

Central Park, a small chemical tanker (19,998 metric tons), is managed by Zodiac Maritime Ltd, a London-headquartered international ship management company owned by Israel's Ofer family. The Liberian-flagged vessel was built in 2015 and is owned by Clumvez Shipping Inc, LSEG data showed.

Zodiac Maritime said in a statement Central Park, which is carrying a full cargo of phosphoric acid, was involved in a suspected piracy incident while crossing international waters, approximately 54 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia. Phosphoric acid is mostly used for fertilisers.

"Our priority is the safety of our 22 crew onboard. The Turkish captained vessel has a multinational crew consisting of a crew of Russian, Vietnamese, Bulgarian, Indian, Georgian and Filipino nationals," the statement added.

"US and coalition forces are in the vicinity and we are closely monitoring the situation," a US official said.

The Sunday attack followed a seizure of another Israeli-linked cargo ship by Yemen's Houthis in the southern Red Sea last week,when the militants seized a cargo ship in the southern Red Sea as it was sailing from Turkey to India. The hijacked ship was 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.

Britain's Maritime Trade Operations agency (UKMTO) said on Sunday it was aware of a possible attack in southwest Aden and called on other vessels to exercise caution.

The US has blamed Iran for unclaimed attacks on several vessels in the region in the past few years. Tehran has denied involvement.

A container ship managed by an Israeli-controlled company was also hit by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean this week, causing minor damage to the vessel but no injuries, a US defense official said on Saturday.

Additionally, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced in a post on X that it had intercepted and shot down several one-way attack drones launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthis on Thursday morning. The attack was repelled by the USS Thomas Hudner, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer.

The Sunday incident is the latest in a series of attacks in Middle Eastern waters since Hamas declared war on Israel on October 7. Israel has been pounding the enclave to uproot the Islamist group, which has made the war exceedingly bloody hiding deep among the civilian population and underneath the coastal sliver’s non-military facilities. Houthis, which also fired ballistic missiles and armed drones at Israel, vowed to target more Israeli vessels.

Iran supports Hamas but says it did not play any role in the Islamist militants' October 7 terror attack that triggered the current crisis. Iran also backs the Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group that has deep ties with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian faction in Gaza that is also backed by Iran.

The spokesman for Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi military, Yahya Sarea, said last week that the group will target all ships owned or operated by Israeli companies or carrying the Israeli flag, according to the group's Telegram channel. The spokesman called on all countries to withdraw their citizens working on the crews of any such ships.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said that “resistance groups allied to Iran are cleverly adjusting pressure" on Israel and its supporters. The ‘resistance' front or axis is the term coined by the Islamic Republic to describe its logistic, financial and intelligence support for the Syrian regime, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, and dozens of militia groups in the region, several of which were created by Iran.

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