Two major shipping companies, Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, have announced the suspension of passage through a crucial Red Sea strait for global commerce following recent attacks by Yemeni rebels.
The Huthis, backed by Iran, control parts of Yemen and are targeting shipping to support Palestine during the ongoing conflict with Israel in Gaza, leading to maritime tensions that could escalate the Gaza conflict.
Hapag-Lloyd stated it would halt Red Sea container ship traffic until December 18 after an attack on one of its vessels, while Maersk instructed its ships in the area to pause their journey.
A recent attack by the rebels damaged a Hapag-Lloyd cargo ship, identified as the Al-Jasrah, a Liberia-flagged container ship, leading to a fire onboard.
The US Central Command confirmed the attack, involving a UAV, causing a fire on the Al-Jasrah, which was extinguished promptly.
During a pro-Palestinian rally in Sanaa, the rebels claimed to have attacked two more ships, targeting vessels heading towards Israel, including the Maersk Gibraltar. The US official reported a missed missile.
The Huthis have threatened to impede ships bound for Israel if aid isn’t allowed into Gaza. Recent attacks, including seizing a Norwegian-flagged tanker, have heightened concerns for international shipping routes and Israel’s security.
Germany’s Foreign Minister and US National Security Advisor expressed worries about the Huthi attacks, highlighting the risk to international security and efforts underway to manage the threat.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister expressed concerns about potential conflicts escalating in the region due to the complex situation and called for caution.
The Red Sea route’s strategic significance for oil and gas shipments to Israel’s ports and the Suez Canal underscores the severity of the situation amid rising tensions.
The Huthis, aligning themselves with Iran-affiliated groups, have heightened tensions in the region, prompting Western warships’ increased presence to counter missile and drone threats.