Satellite Imagery Shows Ship Hijacked by Houthis Near Yemen Port

A vessel seized by Yemen’s Houthi militia in the Red Sea on Sunday was anchored just outside a busy Yemeni port on Tuesday, according to an analysis of satellite imagery by The New York Times.

A satellite image captured on Tuesday morning local time showed the vessel, the Galaxy Leader, at anchor among other ships off the Red Sea port of Al-Hudaydah, about 430 miles southeast from the location broadcast in its last received transmission over the weekend.

Drawing on another satellite image, The Times was able to determine that the Galaxy Leader had arrived at the port on Monday. The ship was first spotted in satellite imagery by Samir Madani, co-founder of TankerTrackers.com, which monitors global shipping.

The Times previously verified a video released by the Houthi militia on Monday that showed its forces seizing the Galaxy Leader. The video shows a military helicopter delivering at least 10 armed men onto the deck of the roughly 600-foot-long vessel and taking over the ship’s bridge. The video ends with the ship, now bearing the flag used by the Houthis as well as a Palestinian flag, surrounded by smaller Houthi boats.

The video also contained clues about when and where the vessel was hijacked, including a clock and a navigational computer display, indicating the rough time and location that Houthi fighters took over the vessel on Sunday, near Yemen’s coast.

Hours before the hijacking, the Houthi militia — which is part of Iran’s so-called Axis of Resistance, along with the Lebanese militia Hezbollah and armed groups in Iraq — had threatened to target ships flagged, owned and operated by Israel traversing the Red Sea. After the ship was seized, a Houthi spokesman announced that the hijacking was a demonstration of support for “the oppressed Palestinian people.”

Israel’s military said the ship was en route to India from Turkey and had an “international crew, without Israelis.”

However, the company’s beneficial owner — meaning the person who exercises control over it, owns more than a quarter of it or receives substantial economic benefit from it — appears to have at some point been an Israeli billionaire, Rami Ungar, according to the Paradise Papers, a major leak of confidential documents that in 2017 exposed a hidden world of wealth and ownership.

The Houthis took over the Yemeni capital, Sana, in 2014, and now rule much of northern Yemen, despite attempts by a Saudi-led military coalition to rout it. They have long declared support for the Palestinian cause and hostility toward Israel, and have issued repeated threats to enter conflict between Israel and Hamas. Last month, the Houthis claimed an attempted missile and drone attack on southern Israel.