November 30, 2023

President Joe Biden’s energy security adviser, Amos Hochstein, visited Israel to contain cross-border violence with Hezbollah on the IDF Israel’s northern border and the budding conflict with the Houthis in Yemen and the Jewish state. Hochstein arrived on the 45th day of the Gaza war between the IDF and Hamas, after visiting Lebanon and Qatar. He is expected to brief Israelis about his efforts. US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters in Washington that the US does not want to see the war escalate and widen or have a second front in the north. The US is doing everything it can to prevent that scenario from happening. Hochstein was in the region to speak with Lebanese and Israeli officials to prevent such an escalation as a Hezbollah rocket damaged an IDF base in the north. The US has also moved additional “force posture” into the region to send a message to regional state and non-state actors not to widen the conflict, Kirby said. The Iranian proxy group in Yemen, the Houthis, seized the ship Galaxy Leader, which it believed was linked to Israel in the southern Red Sea. The group has threatened to hijack Israeli ships in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters in Washington that the ship’s seizure was a “flagrant violation of international law. We demand the immediate release of the ship and its crew and we will consult with our allies and UN partners as to appropriate next steps.” The Houthis have also been launching long-range missile and drone salvoes at Israel in solidarity with the Palestinian Hamas militants fighting in the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for the attack. Iran denied Israeli claims that it was involved in the seizure of the ship, which is actually British-owned and Japanese-operated cargo ship. Two commercial ships that diverted their course in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden were connected to the same maritime group whose vessel was seized by Yemen’s Houthis, according to shipping data and British maritime security company Ambrey. Japan’s top government spokesperson on Monday confirmed the capture of the Nippon Yusen-operated ship Galaxy Leader, adding that Japan was appealing to the Houthis while seeking the help of Saudi, Omani and Iranian authorities to work toward the swift release of the vessel and its crew. Two other ships also listed as commercially managed by Ray Car Carriers, Glovis Star and Hermes Leader, diverted their sailing routes on Sunday, Ambrey said on Monday.

The Hermes Leader had set a course to sail south of Nishtun in Yemen when it diverted its journey. “The vessel continued to sail back to where it had come from, providing a new AIS destination as Hambantota, Sri Lanka,” Ambrey said. “The vessel incurred a minimum four-day business disruption and sailed an additional 1,876 nautical miles.” The Glovis Star drifted for a number of hours in the Red Sea before continuing its journey, AIS ship tracking data showed on Monday. Isle of Man registered Galaxy Maritime Ltd, which is the registered owner of the Galaxy Leader, said in a statement on Monday that the vessel “was illegally boarded by military personnel via a helicopter” on Nov 19. When asked about the other two vessels diverting, a company spokesperson said it was not commenting further on “political issues.” US maritime administration MARAD in an advisory said the Galaxy Leader had been hijacked approximately 50 miles west of the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah, adding that ships should “exercise caution when transiting this area.” “We saw yesterday a new record – for the first time we saw (an) official announcement of pirates taking over a ship on the high seas, which I think is a major threat to international law and order,” Israeli President Isaac Herzog said in comments on Monday, referring to the Galaxy Leader.