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Houthi Rebels Declare Success in Blocking Israel-Bound Traffic

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Yemen’s Houthi rebels believe that they are achieving results in their campaign of attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. Israel-bound traffic through the waterway has tailed off, the group claimed, along with a large share of all other maritime commerce.

“The Americans and the British failed to secure the passage of any ship heading to Israel. They were unable to protect these ships,” Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi said in an address Tuesday. “They can no longer protect even American-British ships, and this is a real and major victory for us.”

Despite U.S. efforts to suppress their operations, Houthi forces have continued to mount attacks on Western shipping, with limited success. A Houthi ballistic missile caused minor damage to a bulker on Monday, hitting an Iran-bound ship with NYSE-listed Greek owners. It marked a return to launch activity after nearly a week; during the previous six days, American forces repeatedly destroyed Houthi mobile launchers on the ground, before anti-ship attacks could be carried out.

Whether the Houthi’s claim about Israel-bound shipping is accurate, it is true that the industry as a whole is avoiding the Red Sea. Clarksons estimates that traffic is down by more than 70 percent, and 92 percent of all east-west container ship traffic is taking the Cape of Good Hope route. Even after repeated American airstrikes, “most shipping lines recognize that the threat has not been removed or neutralized,” BIMCO security chief Jakob Larsen told the FT.

Israeli shippers are also turning to a new overland route through Saudi Arabia. Thanks to Saudi permission, importers can now offload boxes in Bahrain or the UAE and send them by truck over Saudi roadways to the Jordanian border, then onward to Israel. This new land bridge lets Israel-bound cargo bypass the Red Sea.

“Dozens of trucks a day, not just by us, are facilitating this route to shorten shipping times for goods from textiles to electronics, raw materials for industry, metal pipes, and aluminum,” freight forwarder Omer Izhari told the Times of Israel.

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