Hijacked Cargo Ship Turns Tourist Attraction Amidst Rising Tensions in Yemen
In the heart of Western Yemen, the picturesque Red Sea serves as a canvas to a peculiar spectacle. The Galaxy Leader, a British-owned, Japanese-operated cargo ship, hijacked by Houthi rebels last month, has morphed into an unlikely tourist hotspot. This ‘family-friendly’ destination is drawing locals, including groups of young men, from the port of Hodeidah on sunset tours to explore the vessel. Yet, beyond the veneer of this bizarre tourism venture, lingers the disquieting mystery of the ship’s crew—twenty-five members held captive since the seizure on November 19.
The Unsettling Silence Around the Captive Crew
Despite the Galaxy Leader’s transformation into an attraction, the fate of its crew remains uncertain. Their whereabouts and condition are unknown, even as the ship continues to be paraded in front of the local population. This alarming situation is a grim reminder of the volatile situation in the region, further complicated by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels’ recent spree of attempted hijackings.
Iran’s Alleged Role in the Hijackings
The United States, in its accusations, suggests Iran’s deep involvement in planning Houthi attacks, supplying weapons, financial support, and training. Iran’s foreign minister, however, refutes these allegations, calling the attacks a ‘completely Yemeni decision’ in defense of Gaza. These maritime assaults have plunged the Red Sea into chaos, forcing vessels to detour away from the waterway, significantly impacting global maritime trade.
The US Response to the Crisis
Amidst this fraught landscape, the United States is reportedly considering a ‘heavy response’ to the situation. The specifics of this response remain undisclosed, but the White House has been engaging in dialogues with international leaders, including a long conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, a cease-fire was reportedly not discussed.
The Emerging Coalition Against Houthi Attacks
In response to this escalating threat, the US has launched an international naval operation named Operation Prosperity Guardian to protect ships. The coalition includes several nations, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, and Norway. However, the effectiveness of this operation is questionable, given the reluctance of certain Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, to publicly declare their participation and potentially deepen their entanglement in the conflict with the Houthis.
As the Red Sea continues to be a stage for these alarming incidents, the world watches with bated breath, anticipating the next move in this high-stakes maritime chess game.