Attackers seize Israel-linked tanker off Yemen in a third such assault during Israel-Hamas war

The Liberian-flagged Central Park, managed by Zodiac Maritime, was seized by unknown attackers in Gulf of Aden

By AP

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Central Park. — AP
Central Park. — AP

Published: Sun 26 Nov 2023, 7:52 PM

Attackers seized a tanker linked to Israel off the coast of Yemen on Sunday, authorities said. While no group immediately claimed responsibility, it comes as at least two other maritime attacks in recent days have been linked to the Israel-Hamas war.

The attackers seized the Liberian-flagged Central Park, managed by Zodiac Maritime, in the Gulf of Aden, the company and private intelligence firm Ambrey said. An American defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, also confirmed to The Associated Press that the attack took place.

Zodiac called the seizure “a suspected piracy incident".

“Our priority is the safety of our 22 crew onboard,” Zodiac said in a statement. “The Turkish-captained vessel has a multinational crew consisting of a crew of Russian, Vietnamese, Bulgarian, Indian, Georgian and Filipino nationals. The vessel is carrying a full cargo of phosphoric acid.”

Zodiac described the vessel as being owned by Clumvez Shipping Inc., though other records directly linked Zodiac as the owner. London-based Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. British corporate records listed two men with the last name Ofer as a current and former director of Clumvez Shipping, including Daniel Guy Ofer, who is also a director at Zodiac Maritime.

The US defence official said that it appeared “an unknown number of unidentified armed individuals” seized the ship.

“US and coalition forces are in the vicinity and we are closely monitoring the situation," the official said.

Ambrey said that it appeared that “US naval forces are engaged in the situation and have asked vessels to stay clear of the area.”

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Zodiac Maritime has been targeted previously amid a wider yearslong shadow war between Iran and Israel. In 2021, a drone attack assessed by the US and other Western nations to have been carried out by Iran killed two crew members aboard Zodiac's oil tanker Mercer Street off the coast of Oman.

The Central Park seizure comes after a container ship, CMA CGM Symi, owned by another Israeli billionaire came under attack on Friday by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean. Iran has not acknowledged carrying out the attack, nor did it respond to questions from the AP about that assault.

Both the Symi and the Central Park had been behaving as if they faced a threat in recent days.

The ships had switched off their Automatic Identification System trackers, according to data from MarineTraffic.com analyzed by the AP. Ships are supposed to keep their AIS active for safety reasons, but crews will turn them off if it appears they might be targeted. In the Central Park's case, the vessel had last transmitted four days ago after it left the Suez Canal heading south into the Red Sea.


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