Wed. Apr 24th, 2024

In a significant development impacting global commerce, leading shipping companies Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd announced on Friday the suspension of Red Sea strait passage due to attacks by Yemeni rebels.

The Huthis, backed by Iran, claim they are targeting shipping to exert pressure on Israel amid its conflict with Palestinian Hamas militants. The maritime tensions have raised concerns about the potential escalation of the Gaza conflict.

Hapag-Lloyd, a German transport company, declared a halt to Red Sea container ship traffic until December 18 following an attack on one of its vessels. Maersk, a Danish firm, followed suit, instructing all vessels in the area to pause their journeys.

The move comes after the Huthis attacked a Hapag-Lloyd cargo ship and a near-miss incident involving Maersk Gibraltar.

The attacked vessel, identified as the Liberia-flagged Al-Jasrah, sustained damage from a strike launched by the Huthis in a Huthi-controlled region of Yemen. The US Central Command confirmed the attack, mentioning a UAV strike that caused a fire extinguished successfully.

Hapag-Lloyd reported the attack on its ship, the Al-Jasrah, en route from Piraeus to Singapore, with no casualties reported. The rebels later claimed attacks on two other ships, MSC Palatium and MSC Alanya, during a pro-Palestinian rally, alleging they were heading toward Israel.

The Huthis had previously declared their intent to prevent the passage of ships to Israel if aid was not allowed into Gaza. Germany’s Foreign Minister and the US National Security Advisor expressed concern over the attacks, emphasizing the threat to international shipping routes.

The Red Sea region, specifically Bab al-Mandab, is a vital route for global trade, connecting the Red Sea, Israel’s ports, and the Suez Canal.

The Huthis, part of the “axis of resistance,” have faced opposition from a Saudi-led coalition, with ongoing concerns about the potential for a broader conflict in the region. Iran’s Defence Minister warned against the deployment of multinational forces in the Red Sea, anticipating “extraordinary problems.” Western warships continue patrolling the area amid heightened tensions.

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