Galaxy Leader cargo ship
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 Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, officials said, taking crew members hostage. Image Credit: AP

Manila: A Philippine foreign ministry official has confirmed that 17 Filipino seafarers are among the crew members held hostage after a cargo ship was hijacked by Houthi rebels from Yemen, who reportedly seized control of the vessel on the Red Sea.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega, in an interview with local media on Wednesday (November 22), revealed the number of Filipino crew members of the cargo vessel Galaxy Leader.

On Sunday (November 19), Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed they have "captured" the ship, citing its alleged connection to Israel as the reason for their actions. The Houthi group announced they had taken the ship to the Yemeni coast.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega
Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega Image Credit: PNA

De Vega expressed concern as it's linked to Israel's conflict with Hamas. “What reached us is that no harm will be done to the foreign crew members,” De Vega was quoted as saying.

Initial reports indicated that a total of 25 crew members from Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Philippines, Mexico, and Romania were captured by the rebels on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Japanese government officials confirmed that the ship was operated by a Japanese company. Despite the absence of Japanese nationals on board, Japan is working in collaboration with Israel to secure the release of the vessel.

The Houthis purportedly targeted the ship due to its perceived Israeli affiliation, a claim dismissed by the Israeli government. The incident unfolds against the backdrop of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.