The Hezbollah-run TV channel Al-Manar on Monday evening broadcast footage of Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels taking over a cargo ship with supposed links to Israel in the southern Red Sea and capturing 22 crewmembers on board the day before.
In the almost four-minute video, a helicopter bearing a Palestinian flag lands on board the ship. Masked gunmen disembark from the helicopter and proceed to capture the ship's crew. The footage concludes with several smaller boats escorting the vessel.
The Bahamas-flagged vessel, Galaxy Leader, is reportedly owned by the shipping company Ray, owned by Israeli businessman Rami Ungar. There were no Israelis on board.
The IDF called the hijacking of the cargo ship "a very grave incident of global consequence." The army added that the vessel was "staffed by civilians of various nationalities, not including Israelis. It is not an Israeli ship."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident an "Iranian attack against an international vessel."
"The ship, owned by a British company and operated by a Japanese firm, was hijacked under Iranian direction by the Houthi militia in Yemen,” a statement from his office read.
“The vessel had 25 crew members of various nationalities, including Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos and Mexicans; no Israelis were on board.
"This is another act of Iranian terrorism, representing a significant escalation in Iran's aggression against the citizens of the free world, and has international implications for the security of global shipping routes."
The vessel's owner said on Monday said it was "illegally boarded by military personnel via a helicopter" on Nov. 19 and is now in the Hodeidah port area in Yemen.
"All communications were subsequently lost with the vessel," Isle of Man registered Galaxy Maritime Ltd, owner of the pure car carrier Galaxy Leader, said in a statement.
"The company, as a shipping concern, will not be commenting further on the political or geopolitical situation."
The United States denounced the ship's seizure as a breach of international law and demanded the immediate release of the vessel and its crew.
"The Houthi seizure of the motor vessel Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea is a flagrant violation of international law," U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told a briefing. "We demand the immediate release of the ship and its crew and we will consult with our allies and U.N. partners as to appropriate next steps."
The Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader's crew is made up of nationals from Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Philippines, Mexico and Romania, Galaxy Maritime said. The vessel is chartered by Japan's Nippon Yusen.
"Owners and managers believe the seizure of this vessel represents a gross violation of freedom of passage for the world fleet and a serious threat to international trade," Galaxy Maritime said.
It added that the "key concern at this time is the safety and security of the 25 crew members currently being held by the perpetrators of this criminal act."