Yemeni militias again hijack an Israeli-affiliated tanker. Photo/Reuters
GAZA – Yemeni militia seized a tanker linked to Israel off the coast of Aden, Yemen, on Sunday. Although no group has yet claimed responsibility, this attack comes as there have been at least two other maritime attacks in recent days that have been linked to the Israel-Hamas war.
“The attackers seized Central Park, managed by Zodiac Maritime, in the Gulf of Aden,” said the company and private intelligence firm Ambrey. An American defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, also confirmed the attack took place.
“Our priority is the safety of the 22 crew members on board,” Zodiac said in a statement. “The ship, which is captained by Turkey, has a multinational crew consisting of crew members from Russia, Vietnam, Bulgaria, India, Georgia and the Philippines. The ship was carrying a full load of phosphoric acid.”
Zodiac described the ship as belonging to Clumvez Shipping Inc., although other accounts directly attribute Zodiac as the owner. London-based Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. UK company records list two men with the surname Ofer as current and former directors of Clumvez Shipping, including Daniel Guy Ofer, who is also a director at Zodiac Maritime.
It is not yet clear who was behind the attack. Aden is controlled by forces allied with Yemen’s internationally recognized government and a Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels for years. In theory, parts of the Gulf of Aden are under the control of these forces and are quite far from Houthi-held areas of the country. Somali pirates are also not known to operate in the area.
US defense officials said it appeared “an unknown number of armed individuals” seized the ship.
“US and coalition forces are in the area and we are monitoring the situation closely,” the official said.
Ambrey said that it appears “US Naval Forces are involved in this situation and have asked ships to stay away from the area.”
Zodiac Maritime has been targeted before amid a years-long shadow war between Iran and Israel. In 2021, a drone attack blamed by the US and other Western countries on Iran killed two crew members of the Zodiac oil tanker Mercer Street off the coast of Oman.