Yemen’s Houthi militia posted a video Monday, showing its forces hijacking the Galaxy Leader ship, a day after announcing it had seized the vessel in the Red Sea as a show of support for the “oppressed Palestinian people.”
The video, verified for authenticity by The New York Times, shows at least 10 armed men on the deck of the roughly 600-foot-long ship after jumping from a military helicopter hovering just above.
Most of the video appears to come from cameras attached to the men’s heads and follows them as they take control of the bridge from the crew members. A later section of the video, taken from a distance, shows a handful of small boats – of a type known to be used by Houthi rebels – moving around and alongside the ship. One displays a Yemeni flag used by the Houthis as well as a Palestinian flag; the same flags now fly on the Galaxy Leader.
The Galaxy Leader’s whereabouts have been unclear since Saturday, when its last received location signal showed it in the Red Sea, between Saudi Arabia and Sudan. But the new video contains clues to when and where the ship was hijacked.
A clock on the wall of the Galaxy Leader’s bridge in the video shows a time just after 1 p.m. Additionally, a navigation computer screen shows that the ship has traveled nearly three-quarters of the coast of Yemen. The evidence suggests that Houthi fighters took control of the ship when it was within quick and easy striking distance of the Yemen coast, rather than further north in the middle of the Red Sea.
A Times analysis of a satellite image captured Sunday morning local time – hours before the time shown on the bridge clock – offers further evidence that the Galaxy Leader had traveled several hundred miles beyond its last known location. In the image, a ship whose visual characteristics and dimensions indicate that it is the Galaxy Leader transits the Red Sea, near the Yemeni Zubair island group. The satellite image was likely taken just hours before the hijacking. Samir Madani, co-founder of TankerTrackers.com, which monitors global shipping, first spotted the ship in the image.
Hours before the hijacking, the Houthi militia had threatened to target owned and operated Israeli-flagged ships crossing the Red Sea. The Israeli military said the ship was en route to India from Turkey and had an “international crew, with no Israelis.” The ship, listed as a vehicle carrier, is owned by a British company and operated by a Japanese company.
The beneficial owner of the company – that is, the person who exercises control over it, owns more than a quarter of it, or derives substantial economic benefit from it – appears to have at one time been an Israeli billionaire, Rami Ungar, according to the Paradise Papers, a major leak of confidential documents that in 2017 revealed a hidden world of wealth and property.