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Monday, February 26, 2024

17 Filipinos on ship seized by Yemen rebels

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Seventeen Filipino seafarers were among the foreigners held hostage when Yemen’s Huthi rebel group seized a cargo ship in the southern Red Sea earlier this week.

“There were 17 Filipinos according to the manning agency, together with other foreigners,” Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega said in a television interview.

De Vega said the government is paying extra attention to the hostage-taking as it was said to be connected to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas militants.

“We are alarmed. This is not the first time Filipino seafarers were held hostage (but) this is connected to the war between Hamas and Israel because the ship was targeted because it was allegedly

Israeli-owned although the operator was a Japanese company,” he said.

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The Department of Migrant Workers said it already communicated with the families of the Filipino seafarers.

“We are currently working with the Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as officials of the registered shipping and manning agency of the vessel to monitor the safety and well-being of the 17 Filipino seafarers onboard the ship, and to bring them home safely,” the DMW said.

De Vega said the DFA is hoping the rebels will not renege on their word that no foreign hostages would be harmed.

“There is an all of government approach and various government agencies are meeting and working together on this,” he said.

“We will ensure their welfare. The safety of our countrymen abroad is a paramount policy and priority of our government. Just wait and we will find a way to save them,” he added.

The vessel, owned by an Israeli businessman, had 25 people on board, including the crew hailing from Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Philippines, Mexico and Romania.

The Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader is operated by Japanese firm, Nippon Yusen K.K.

Nippon Yusen has already set up an emergency task force at its headquarters in Tokyo.

Huthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, that the rebels “seized an Israeli ship and took it to the Yemeni coast.”

Israel’s military, writing on X, said “the hijacking of a cargo ship by the Huthis… is a very grave incident of global consequence.” A US military official said the seizure of the vessel “is a flagrant violation of international law.”

“We demand the immediate release of the ship and its crew. We will consult with our allies and UN partners as to appropriate next steps,” the official said.

The Bab al-Mandab Strait – a narrow pass between Yemen and Djibouti at the foot of the Red Sea – is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, and carries about a fifth of global oil consumption.

The Huthis, declaring themselves part of the “axis of resistance” of Iran-affiliated groups, have launched a series of drone and missile strikes targeting Israel since October, following a surprise attack by Hamas militants on Israel.

Analysts have said the goal of the rebels, who control Yemen’s capital Sanaa and much of the country, is strategic rather than military as they seek regional and domestic legitimacy.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, after the Palestinian militants killed around 1,200 people and took about 240 hostages on Oct. 7, according to Israeli authorities.

The Hamas government in Gaza says 13,000 people have been killed in Israel’s relentless aerial bombardment and ground operations in the territory. With AFP

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