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The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels of Yemen have seized a cargo ship linked to an Israeli company in the Red Sea in the latest flare-up in the Middle East that could roil the oil market ahead of the OPEC+ meeting next weekend.
Houthi spokesperson Yahya Saree said in a statement that the rebels “carried out a military operation in the Red Sea, the results of which were the seizure of an Israeli ship and taking it to the Yemeni coast,” The Times of Israel reported.
The vessel, Galaxy Leader, is owned by a company registered under Isle of Man-headquartered Ray Car Carriers – a unit of Tel Aviv-incorporated Ray Shipping, per LSEG data cited by Reuters.
Israel blamed directly Iran for the cargo ship seizure, while Iran denied any involvement in the incident.
“Israel strongly condemns the Iranian attack against an international vessel,” a statement by Israel’s Prime Minister's Office said on Sunday.
“The ship, which is owned by a British company and is operated by a Japanese firm, was hijacked with Iran guidance by the Yemenite Houthi militia.”
“This is another act of Iranian terrorism and constitutes a leap forward in Iran's aggression against the citizens of the free world, with international consequences regarding the security of the global shipping lanes,” Benjamin Netanyahu’s office added.
Iran, for its part, rejected Israeli claims it was involved in the seizure of the ship.
“These accusations are false and caused by the difficult conditions that the Zionist regime is dealing with,” Iranian media quoted Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani as saying on Monday.
“Unlike the US, Iran does not have proxy forces and the resistance groups in the region are the representatives of their nations, and they act based on their interests, and their actions are part of the reactions to the regime's crimes. It is a Zionist who is committing genocide and war crimes in Gaza under the support of US,” the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman added.
The latest Iran-Israel flare-up comes days before the OPEC+ group of oil producers is set to decide their production policy for early next year after oil prices fell in each of the four past weeks.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com