17 Filipinos held hostage by Yemen’s Houthi rebels

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star
17 Filipinos held hostage by Yemen�s Houthi rebels
A grab from handout footage released by Yemen's Huthi Ansarullah Media Centre on Nov. 19, 2023, reportedly shows members of the rebel group during the capture of an Israel-linked cargo vessel at an undefined location in the Red Sea. Israeli ships are a "legitimate target", Yemen's Huthi rebels warned on November 20, a day after their seizure of the Galaxy Leader and its 25 international crew following an earlier threat to target Israeli shipping over the Israel-Hamas war.
AFP / Ansarullah Media Centre

MANILA, Philippines — At least 17 Filipino seafarers were taken hostage by Yemen’s Houthi armed group when the rebels hijacked their cargo vessel in the Red Sea on Sunday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has confirmed.

“There are 17 Filipinos according to the manning agency, along with other foreign nationals. We are very concerned about this,” DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega told GMA News yesterday.

He said the Philippine government is paying extra attention as this is connected to the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants.

Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree said the seizure of the ship Galaxy Leader was in response to the “heinous acts against our Palestinian brothers in Gaza and the West Bank.”

“If the international community is concerned about regional security and stability, rather than expanding the conflict, it should put an end to Israel’s aggression against Gaza,” he said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

An Associated Press report said the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed the ship is owned by a British company and operated by a Japanese firm, although public shipping databases show the ship’s owners are associated with Ray Car Carriers, founded by Israeli billionaire Abraham Ungar.

The cargo ship has 25 crewmembers of various nationalities, including Filipino, Ukranian and Mexican, all taken hostage by the Houthi rebels.

Meanwhile, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) gave assurance that efforts are being made to bring home the 17 Filipino seafarers safely.

The DMW also assured the families of the seafarers of the government’s full support and assistance.

In a statement, the DMW expressed deep concern over the “unfortunate incident.”

The agency said it is closely coordinating with the DFA as well as officials of registered shipping and manning agencies to monitor the condition and bring home the Filipino seafarers.

Details will be released as the situation unfolds, DMW said. – Mayen Jaymalin

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