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The Galaxy Leader is seen at the port of Koper, Slovenia on Sept. 16, 2008. Yemen's Houthi rebels seized the Israeli-linked cargo ship in a crucial Red Sea shipping route on Nov. 19, officials said, taking over two dozen crew members hostage and raising fears that regional tensions heightened over the Israel-Hamas war were playing out on a new maritime front.Kristijan Bracun/The Associated Press

Israel said on Sunday that Yemen’s Houthis had seized a British-owned and Japanese-operated cargo ship in the southern Red Sea, describing the incident as an “Iranian act of terrorism” with consequences for international maritime security.

The Houthis said they had seized a ship in that area, but described it as Israeli. “We are treating the ship’s crew in accordance with Islamic principles and values,” a spokesperson for the group said, making no reference to the Israeli account.

The Houthis, an ally of Tehran, have been launching long-range missile and drone salvoes at Israel in solidarity with the Palestinian Hamas militants fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Last week, the Houthi leader said his forces would make further attacks on Israel and they could target Israeli ships in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait.

A U.S. Defense official said “we’re aware of the situation and are closely monitoring it".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said a ship – which it did not name – had been seized, “There were no Israelis on the ship,” and Israel was not involved in its ownership or operation, it added.

“This is another Iranian act of terrorism that represents an escalation in Iran’s belligerence against the citizens of the free world, with concomitant international ramifications vis-à-vis the security of global shipping routes.”

Earlier on Sunday the Houthis said all ships owned or operated by Israeli companies, or carrying the Israeli flag could be targeted.

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