A video released by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels shows their recent helicopter raid on the Galaxy Leader, a Bahamian-flagged vehicle carrier in the Red Sea. The Houthis captured the ship and its 25 crew members. This incident, occurring in daylight and in moderate sea conditions, demonstrates the Houthis’ capability to conduct such operations, marking a significant escalation in their maritime capabilities.
- Raid Details: The video depicts Houthi commandos, armed with AK-47s, disembarking from a Mi-171Sh helicopter and seizing control of the Galaxy Leader, including taking crew members hostage.
- Flags and Equipment: The helicopter displayed both the Palestinian and Houthi flags and was equipped with UB-32 rocket pods and a PKM light machine gun.
- Ship Ownership and Crew: Despite initial reports of the ship being Israeli-owned, it’s actually British-owned and Japanese-operated. The crew includes members from the Philippines, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and Mexico.
- Houthi Justification: The Houthis claimed the attack was in response to Israel’s actions against Hamas in Gaza, threatening further actions against ships connected to Israel.
- International Response: The U.S. military condemned the attack, and Japan, with interests in the ship, is actively negotiating for the crew’s release. The incident highlights the Houthis’ increased maritime threat capabilities, previously limited to rocket, missile, and drone boat attacks.