Israel-associated tanker captured in Yemen
On Sunday, attackers seized control of the Central Park, a tanker associated with Israel, off the coast of Aden, Yemen, as reported by authorities. Although no specific group has claimed responsibility yet, this incident follows at least two other recent maritime attacks that have been connected to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
The Central Park, managed by Zodiac Maritime, fell victim to the attack in the Gulf of Aden, according to statements from the company and private intelligence firm Ambrey. Confirming the incident, an anonymous American defense official disclosed that the seizure had indeed taken place.
In response to the attack, Zodiac Maritime labeled it a “suspected piracy incident” and emphasized their top priority as the safety of the 22 crew members on board. The vessel, captained by a Turkish national, accommodates a diverse crew comprising individuals from Russia, Vietnam, Bulgaria, India, Georgia, and the Philippines. Additionally, the ship is transporting a full cargo of phosphoric acid.
While the ownership details of the vessel have some discrepancies, Zodiac Maritime, a London-based company belonging to Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, is closely associated. The British corporate records reveal connections between Clumvez Shipping Inc., listed as the owner, and individuals linked to Zodiac Maritime.
“an unknown number of unidentified armed individuals.”
The identity of the attackers remains unclear. Aden is controlled by forces aligned with Yemen’s internationally recognized government and a Saudi-led coalition, engaged in a prolonged conflict against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Notably, the Gulf of Aden area, theoretically under the control of these forces, is distanced from Houthi-controlled territories. Somali pirates are not known to operate in this specific region either.
According to a U.S. defense official, the assailants were “an unknown number of unidentified armed individuals.” U.S. and coalition forces are actively monitoring the situation, and it has been suggested that U.S. naval forces are engaged, advising vessels to avoid the area.
Zodiac Maritime has been a previous target in the ongoing shadow conflict between Iran and Israel. In 2021, an attack by an Iranian drone, according to assessments by the U.S. and other Western nations, resulted in the deaths of two crew members aboard Zodiac’s oil tanker Mercer Street off the coast of Oman.
More to read: Israeli ship hit by Iranian drone, US suspects
The broader context reveals an escalation of attacks on global shipping amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, with incidents involving other vessels, such as the CMA CGM Symi owned by an Israeli billionaire, being targeted in the Indian Ocean. These events unfold within the framework of a weeks-long war that, despite a truce temporarily halting hostilities, poses a risk of evolving into a wider regional conflict. The situation is complicated further as Hamas engages in hostage exchanges with Israel for Palestinian prisoners. Meanwhile, the Houthis have seized a vehicle transport ship in the Red Sea off Yemen, adding another layer of complexity to the maritime security landscape.