Part of the landing and seizure of the Galaxy Leader (Reuters)

The company that owns the ship "Galaxy Leader" said that the Houthi group took it to the western port of Hodeidah, while navigational data on Monday showed that two other ships linked to the company diverted in the Red Sea for fear of a similar fate.

Isle of Man-based Galaxy Maritime said it had lost all contact with its vessel, which was seized by the Houthis on Sunday.

Military personnel boarded the ship illegally via helicopter, the company said in a statement, adding that it was currently in Yemen's Hodeidah port.

The Houthi group broadcast video footage on Monday showing armed men disembarking from a helicopter and seizing control of the cargo ship, which is partly owned by an Israeli businessman and operated by a Japanese company.

The group said it had seized the ship in support of the Gaza Strip, which is under Israeli aggression that has killed more than 13,<> Palestinians, mostly women and children.

The footage showed a helicopter landing on the deck of the ship and a number of the group's fighters disembarked, carrying out a deployment operation in the ship, and storming its cockpit without any resistance from the crew.

Israeli and U.S. Reactions

The Israeli military called the incident "extremely serious globally," while the Israeli prime minister described it as an "Iranian terrorist act."

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said: "Yesterday we saw a new record. "For the first time we see an official announcement of pirates seizing a ship on the high seas, which I think poses a significant threat to international law and order."

Israel has confirmed the ship is British-owned and operated by Japan in the southern Red Sea.

The US Navy said the Galaxy Leader was hijacked about 50 miles west of the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah, adding that ships should "exercise caution when crossing this area".

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said: "The Houthis' seizure of the Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea is a flagrant violation of international law."

"We demand the immediate release of the ship and its crew and will consult with our allies and partners at the United Nations on appropriate next steps."

Japan's top government spokesman called on the Houthis to release the ship and said Tokyo was seeking the help of Saudi, Omani and Iranian authorities to work for the speedy release of the ship and its crew.

Galaxy Leader is partly owned by an Israeli businessman and operated by a Japanese company (Reuters)

Route diversion

Fearing a similar fate, two merchant ships diverted in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

The two vessels listed under the management of Ray Car Carriers are Glovi's Star and Hermes Leader.

The Hermes had set a sailing route south of the port of Nishtun in Yemen when it diverted its voyage.

British maritime security firm Ambry said Hermes "continued to sail back from whence it came from, showing a new destination on the vessel tracking system and that destination is Hambantota in Sri Lanka".

Ship tracking data from the IS system showed that the Glovez Star drifted for several hours in the Red Sea before continuing its journey.

Reuters reported that the vessels were linked to the same company whose ship had earlier been seized by the Houthis.

"The group will target all ships owned or operated by Israeli companies or flying the Israeli flag," said Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree, calling on all countries of the world to withdraw their citizens working in the teams of these ships and avoid shipping or dealing with them.

Source : Al Jazeera + Agencies