Jerusalem Post hacked on Iran general’s killing anniversary

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized an Emirati-flagged ship in the Red Sea, officials said Monday, the latest sign of Mideast tensions as hackers targeted a major Israeli newspaper’s website to mark America’s 2020 killing of a top Iranian general.

The seizure of the Rwabee marks the latest assault in the Red Sea, a crucial route for international trade and energy shipments. Hodeida was the long-coveted prize in the war against Yemen. The Iranian-backed Houthis confirmed the incident.

First word of the Rwabee’s seizure came from the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which only said an attack targeted an unnamed vessel around midnight. According to MarineTraffic.com, the coordinates offered by the Emirati flagged landing craft Rwabee corresponded with the location of the Emirati flagged vessel. It hadn’t provided its satellite-tracking data information for several hours.

A statement from the Saudi-led coalition, carried by state media in the kingdom, acknowledged the attack hours later, saying the Houthis had committed an act of “armed piracy” involving the vessel. Without providing evidence, the coalition claimed that the ship was carrying medical equipment from the dismantled Saudi Field Hospital on the remote island of Socotra.

“The Houthi militia must immediately release the ship, otherwise the coalition forces shall take all necessary measures and procedures to deal with this violation, including the use of force,” Brig. In a statement, Gen. Turki al Malki stated.

A Houthi military spokesman, Yahia Sarei, announced that rebel forces had seized what he described as an Emirati “military cargo ship” carrying equipment into Yemen’s territorial waters “without any license” to engage in “hostile acts” against Yemen’s stability. According to him, the rebels will provide more information about the seizure in the future.

An employee at the vessel’s owners, Abu Dhabi-based Liwa Marine Services, told The Associated Press that the Rwabee appeared to have been the target but said they had no other information and declined to comment further. She did not reveal her identity and then hung up.

In the attack targeting the Jerusalem Post’s website, the image posted by the hackers depicts an exploding target from a recent Iranian military drill designed to look like the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center near the city of Dimona. Underground laboratories are already located at the facility, which houses decades-old reactor rods for reprocessing to make weapons-grade plutonium.

Under its policy of nuclear ambiguity, Israel neither confirms nor denies having atomic weapons.

In a tweet, the Post acknowledged being the target of hackers.

“We are aware of the apparent hacking of our website, alongside a direct threat to Israel,” the English-language newspaper wrote. “We are working to resolve the issue & thank readers for your patience and understanding.”

The newspaper later restored its website. It noted Iran-supporting hackers previously targeted its homepage in 2020 “with an illustration of Tel Aviv burning as then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swam” with a life preserver.

There was no immediate response from the Israeli government. The hack comes after Israel’s former military intelligence chief in late December publicly acknowledged his country was involved in Soleimani’s killing. As Soleimani was about to leave Baghdad’s international Airport, the U.S. drone shot him down.

In Iraq on Monday, troops shot down two so-called “suicide drones” at the Baghdad airport, American and Iraqi officials said. Although no group claimed responsibility for the attack immediately, one drone’s wings was marked with the words “Soleimani‚Äôs revenge” in Arabic. Similar attacks were also reported by militias supported Iran. The incident resulted in no injuries or damages.

Iran also did not immediately acknowledge the hack. The country, however, has been increasing its memorials to the Revolutionary Guard General who was killed in the hack. Soleimani was to be buried Monday at the memorial services.

As the head of the Quds, or Jerusalem, Force of the Revolutionary Guard, Soleimani led all of its expeditionary forces and frequently shuttled between Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. Quds Force members have deployed into Syria’s long war to support President Bashar Assad, as well as into Iraq in the wake of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, a longtime foe of Tehran.

Soleimani rose to prominence by advising forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and in Syria on behalf of the embattled Assad.

U.S. officials say the Guard under Soleimani taught Iraqi militants how to manufacture and use especially deadly roadside bombs against U.S. troops after the invasion of Iraq. Iran denies that. To this day, many Iranians consider Soleimani a hero for his bravery in fighting Iran’s foreign enemies.

Associated Press writers Isabel DeBre in Dubai, Samy Magdy in Cairo and Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

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