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Home Tourist Attraction Yemen’s Houthi rebels turn seized cargo ship into domestic ‘tourist attraction’

Yemen’s Houthi rebels turn seized cargo ship into domestic ‘tourist attraction’

by Staff


A picture taken during an organised tour by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on 22 November 2023 shows the Galaxy Leader cargo ship (R), seized by Houthi fighters two days earlier, approaching the port in the Red Sea off Yemen’s province of Hodeida.

  • Yemen’s Houthi rebels have turned the seized Galaxy Leader
    cargo ship into a domestic “tourist attraction” offering sightseeing
    trips for about a dollar per visit
  • The vessel captured more than two months ago, is now
    decorated with Yemeni and Palestinian flags, along with anti-American and
    anti-Israel slogans.
  • The Galaxy Leader, owned by a British company linked to an
    Israeli businessman, was seized by the Houthis in November.

More than
two months after Yemen’s Houthi rebels captured the Galaxy Leader cargo ship
and detained its crew, the Iran-backed rebels have turned the vessel into a
domestic “tourist attraction”.

For about a
dollar per trip, male-only groups of visitors can board wooden boats five times
a week to the hijacked car carrier, which the Houthis hail as a trophy in their
fight in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Since
shortly after the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza broke out on 7 October, the Houthis
have launched a spate of missile and drone attacks on passing commercial ships
which they say are linked to Israel.

A US-led
naval coalition has responded by patrolling the Red Sea, and US and British
forces have struck military sites of the Houthis, now designated a “global
terrorist” group by Washington, to keep open the vital shipping lane.

This has
done little to dampen the mood on the sightseeing trips to the seized vessel,
which is now decorated with Yemeni and Palestinian flags and banners displaying
anti-American and anti-Israel slogans.

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On a recent
visit, Zubair al-Haidari, from the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa, said he had
travelled for five hours to see the “Israeli ship” anchored off
Hodeida on the Red Sea coast.

It is our
“pride and honour… that our armed forces have accomplished this
wonderful work in supporting our oppressed brothers in Palestine and in
Gaza,” he told AFP.

He was
among some 10 visitors taking pictures with their mobile phones as they chewed
khat, a plant that generates a mild high and is widely consumed in the Arabian
peninsula’s poorest country.

On board
the ship, some visitors performed a traditional dance featuring the daggers
that many Yemenis carry tucked into their belts, accompanied by chants
glorifying the Houthis.

On the deck
of the Galaxy Leader, none of the visitors interviewed by AFP said they had
seen the 25 crew members who are Bulgarian, Filipino, Ukrainian and Mexican and
whose fate remains unknown.

‘Source of
pride’

The Galaxy
Leader is owned by a British company, which is, in turn, owned by an Israeli
businessman.

It had been
chartered by a Japanese company when it was captured on 19 November by the Houthis,
who said they were acting in “solidarity” with people in the besieged
Gaza Strip.

A Yemeni man sells models of the Galaxy Leader car

A Yemeni man sells models of the Galaxy Leader cargo ship, seized by Houthi fighters in November 2023, in Sanaa on 18 January 2024.

Israel’s
military campaign was sparked by Hamas’s 7 October attack, which resulted in
about 1 140 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of
official Israeli figures. Militants also seized around 250 hostages.

Israel has
vowed to destroy Hamas and Gaza’s health ministry says the military offensive
has killed at least 26 257 people, about 70 percent of them women and children.

Amid the
Gaza war, the Houthis have launched numerous attacks against shipping in the
Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, threatening an essential global trade route.

Hizam
al-Assad, of the Houthi political bureau, referred to the Galaxy Leader as a
“tourist attraction” and said the visitors were “proof that the
Yemeni people… are impatient to meet the enemy and confront him”.

Another
visitor, Hamada al-Baydani, said he had travelled 400 kilometres from Al-Bayda,
to see the seized ship, which he labelled “a source of pride for
Yemenis”.

Several
days after detaining the vessel, the Houthis published a video showing a
military general welcoming a group they said was the crew, but the militants
have not provided any information on their fate since.

After an
hour on board under the scorching sun, the visitors made their way back home,
chanting “God is the greatest, death to America, death to Israel”.

 

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