Japan is “directly” approaching the Houthi rebels who hijacked an Israeli-linked cargo ship on Sunday, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said today. The country is also in contact with Israel. “In addition, we urge Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran and other concerned countries to demand that the Houthis quickly release the ship and its crew.”
Yesterday it was announced that Houthi rebels have hijacked a cargo ship in the Red Sea. The ship is owned by a British company owned by Israeli businessman Abraham Ungar and chartered by a Japanese shipping group. The ship, which was on its way to India, was said to have 25 crew members on board, including Bulgarians, Filipinos, Ukrainians and Mexicans. According to Israeli authorities, there are no Israelis among them. There would also be no Japanese on board. What happened to those on board is unknown.
The Houthis, a fundamentalist movement that controls part of war-torn Yemen, say they hijacked the ship in retaliation for Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip. The group also made itself heard earlier in the war: last month they unsuccessfully fired at least six long-range missiles towards the Israeli seaside resort of Eilat. They also threatened attacks in the Red Sea.
Netanyahu’s spokesman yesterday called the hijacking an “Iranian act of terror” because the Houthis are supported militarily and financially by the Iranian government. Iran, meanwhile, denies involvement in the hijacking of the cargo ship. “We have said several times that resistance groups in the region act independently and spontaneously based on their interests and those of their people,” said Nasser Kanaani, the spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry.
Sebas van Aert
Also read the foreign editor’s analysis here Steven Ramdharie: Iran-backed Houthis are not afraid of retaliation and fire missiles and drones at Israel from Yemen