Europe 1 with AFP / Photo credits: MOHAMMED HAMOUD / ANADOLU AGENCY / ANADOLU VIA AFP 16:45 p.m., November 27, 2023

According to a U.S. defense official, an oil tanker belonging to an Israeli-linked company was boarded off the coast of Yemen on Sunday. It was not immediately clear if the crew members remained on board the vessel, but they were said to be "safe".

An oil tanker belonging to an Israeli-linked company was boarded Sunday in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Yemen, a U.S. military official said, but its crew is "safe." The U.S. and coalition forces have intervened and "the crew of the M/V Central Park is currently safe," a U.S. defense official told AFP.

The situation is being closely monitored by US and coalition forces

It was not immediately known if the crew members remained on board the vessel. "It appears that an unknown number of unidentified armed individuals seized the Central Park ship in the Gulf of Aden on November 26," another US official told AFP earlier, adding that "US and coalition forces are in the vicinity and monitoring the situation closely."

Maritime security firm Ambrey had earlier announced the seizure of an Israeli-linked oil tanker off the coast of Yemen, in the latest incident in the same area. "The event is probably linked to state actors," Ambrey said, adding that the ship, which is owned by a British-based company with ties to Israel, had received threats from Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Nationals of several nationalities

According to Ambrey, the ship's owner, Zodiac Maritime, said the 22 crew members included Russian, Vietnamese, Bulgarian, Indian, Georgian and Filipino nationals, as well as a Turkish captain.

The boarding comes after a cargo ship belonging to an Israeli businessman was damaged in an alleged Iranian drone attack in the Indian Ocean on Friday, and a week after the Houthis captured an Israeli-linked cargo ship in the southern Red Sea. Yemeni rebels have threatened to attack Israeli ships belonging to Israel's allies sailing in the Red Sea, in retaliation for the Israeli military's war against Palestinian Hamas in Gaza, where a four-day truce came into effect on Friday.

Houthi rebels fired at Israel

The Houthis announced last Sunday the seizure in the Red Sea of a cargo ship owned by Israel, chartered by a Japanese group and flying the flag of the Bahamas. The rebels are part of what they call the "axis of resistance" against Israel, along with Iranian-backed groups such as the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah. They fired a series of drones and missiles in the direction of Israel and many of the devices were intercepted by Israeli defenses or American warships.

The Central Park seizure took place off the coast of the Yemeni port city of Aden. A merchant ship in the area reported that the tanker was "approached by eight people, wearing military uniforms, aboard two boats," according to Ambrey. The shipping firm recalled that the Houthis had threatened to attack the tanker on Saturday if it did not divert to the port of Hodeidah and that a US-led coalition warship intercepted the rebels' message and asked Central Park to disregard it.