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Houthi militants, with Iranian backing, control parts of Yemen and have employed advanced weaponry, such as ballistic missiles and “kamikaze” drones, to target international shipping in the Red Sea. This support is in favor of the Palestinian group Hamas during its conflict with Israel in the Gaza Strip.
The attacks commenced on Nov. 19, with the seizure of the Galaxy Leader cargo vessel by Houthi commandos. Subsequently, 29 more ships have been attacked, causing significant disruptions to global trade, with approximately 12% passing through the Red Sea.
A comprehensive analysis by Reuters details the escalating use of Houthi drones and missiles, despite Western military airstrikes on their bases in Yemen. The attacks focus on the southern Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait, a vital passage for trade between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Countries like Israel, the U.S., and allies have intercepted Houthi missiles and drones targeting ships, aiming to safeguard naval and commercial vessels. Container ships and dry bulk carriers have been frequent targets, with an oil tanker hit on Jan. 26 in the Gulf of Aden. The Houthi arsenal, displayed in a September military parade, includes Iranian-made weapons, contradicting Iran’s denial of direct support.
Shipping companies have rerouted sailings via Africa’s Cape of Good Hope due to ongoing attacks, impacting delivery costs and raising concerns about global inflation. Container shipping, transporting consumer goods, has been significantly affected, with about 65% fewer vessels passing through the Suez Canal since the attacks began. Seafarers navigating high-risk zones around Yemen are signing agreements for double pay due to increased dangers.