NewsIsraeli-owned tanker seized off Yemeni coast, sparks international concern

Israeli-owned tanker seized off Yemeni coast, sparks international concern

Another ship hijacked: Is Houthi making good on its threats?
Another ship hijacked: Is Houthi making good on its threats?
Images source: © GETTY | Mohammed Hamoud
ed. BAR
5:38 AM EST, November 27, 2023

Around the coast of Yemen, in the Gulf of Aden, unidentified actors have reportedly seized the oil tanker, Central Park. Owned by London-based company Zodiac Maritime, the ship is property of Eyal Ofer, an Israeli billionaire.

The tanker fell into control of a group of unidentified armed individuals last Sunday while it was in the Gulf of Aden. Reports from an American defence official quoted by Reuters suggest that the captured oil tanker is operated by an Israeli company.

This is not the first time an Israeli-affiliated ship has been hijacked. Last week, the Houthi movement in Yemen, an ally of Iran, seized the commercial ship Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea. The group also threatened to target more Israeli ships.

The party responsible for the recent seizure of the Central Park is still unknown. The Associated Press adds that the ship was seized in the region of the Gulf of Aden. This area is under the control of forces associated with Yemen's internationally recognized government, including a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which has been engaging the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen for years.

Is the US fleet involved in the operation?

The 5th Naval Fleet of the United States, responsible for patrolling the Middle East, has yet to respond to enquiries from the Associated Press regarding the incident in the Gulf of Aden. However, private security firm Ambrey, a provider of naval security services, claimed that it appears "the US naval forces are engaged with the situation and have asked other ships to stay clear of this area".

The Times of Israel reports that Central Park is a small tanker, either directly or indirectly managed by Zodiac Maritime, a London-registered company owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

Describing the event as an "incident that could be an act of piracy," Zodiac released a statement declaring their priority as the safety of the 22-person crew on board. They added, "The ship, captained by a Turkish citizen, has a multinational crew comprising nationals from Russia, Vietnam, Bulgaria, India, Georgia and the Philippines. The ship is fully laden, carrying phosphoric acid."

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