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Cassie Sipe

Mar 12, 2024

The Heroic Blockade to Save Palestine 

Last year, Ansar Allah (known in the West as the "Houthis") announced a campaign to blockade Israeli and Zionist-linked US and UK vessels. The resistance group has promised to attack them throughout the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, or anywhere else within reach until Israel ceases its aggression against Palestinians in Gaza. Because of this Israel and its Western backers have been forced to acknowledge the new calculus: that they are at war not only with Hamas but with an Axis of Resistance.


Today, blockades, attacks on ports and mass protests have become an effective way to prevent trade and weapons shipments. For example, Australian protestors blocked a terminal receiving weapons for Israel for several weeks. More recently, Polish farmers blocked weapons shipments to Ukraine. And Malaysia has banned Israel linked ships from its ports. It seems Israel is now tasting its own medicine after a nearly 18-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.


History of the Ansar Allah movement 

So what is Ansar Allah? The popular movement originated with a Yemeni tribal opposition movement and militia called the Houthis. They get their name from Hussein Badr Al Houthi and his brother of Abdulmalik al-Houthi, the current leader of the group. Abdulmalik took over after the death of his brother Hussein in 2004. He is thought to have as many as 21 brothers, some of whom serve in the movement. Yahya and Abdul Karim are still alive and serve with him, while their brothers Ibrahim Al Houthi and Abdulkhallik Al Houthi were killed in action.


After an arrest in 2004 by Saudi-backed Yemeni government, Hussein helped launch the Houthi insurgency. This intifada induced the “Yemen Crisis,'' which began in 2011 and metastasized into a full-blown civil war by 2014. This came after the Houthis staged a coup against Yemen’s now ousted government and fought a prolonged proxy war.

Iran took the side of the Yemeni resistance, while Saudi Arabia backed its " internationally-recognized" proxy leader in a war which became quickly became a quagmire for the Saudis, despite backing from the US and UK. Beginning in 2014, Ansar Allah fought the Saudi‘s blockade of their territory, a key contributor to the famine in Yemen, which was until Gaza the world's worst humanitarian crisis. 


Despite not being internationally recognized as the government of Yemen, Ansar Allah commands the majority of the territory of Yemen and its people, administering the capital since 2015.


The predominantly Zaidi Shia insurgents have been fighting the Saudis for a decade. They were able to destroy one of Riyadh’s key oil refineries, sending Saudi Arabia’s economy into chaos. That a rebel militia from the world's poorest country could inflict such damage on Saudi Arabia, a powerhouse backed by western imperialism, demonstrated that Ansar Allah was and continues to be a force to be reckoned with.




Ansar Allah considers its blockade an anti-terror operation against Israel and US imperialism, fulfilling its duty under the Geneva convention by fulfilling its obligation under international law to prevent genocide. It consider the US, UK and Israel as the main source of terrorism in the region.

This is not an uncommon sentiment in West Asia, given the USA’s covert support over the years for the Taliban, the Arab Spring color revolution, Al Qaeda, and ISIS. Anti-imperialist and anti-colonial sentiment have become fervent throughout the populations of West Asia, even as they continue to be ruled by Western-controlled comprador regimes.


As Zaidi Shias, Ansar Allah has similar beliefs to Hezbollah and other Iran backed militias. Its focus was contained to its own territory prior to October 7th, though the movement has long been proudly against Zionism and US imperialism. Their chants are quite similar to Hezbollah’s and Khamenei’s and are closely aligned with Iran. Iran has taken similar measures against Israeli ships and is actively arming Ansar Allah and other Resistance Axis militias. 


Impact on Israel and global trade 

Due to the crisis, international shipping companies have reversed traffic away from the Red Sea, even as this shift left them more vulnerable to pirates. The attacks on ships caused shipping prices to increase very quickly. Since then, Red Sea trade has been cut in half, the biggest drop since the Evergiven ship blocked the Suez Canal in 2021.

This blockade has been effective and strategic, as 12% of international maritime trade passes through the Red Sea. It's also a key route for oil vessels, making it harder for Israel’s western allies to send in oil and weapons supplies.  


The blockade cut off Israel’s Eilat port, which has seen an 84% drop in traffic as a result. While this will not prevent Israeli imports completely, it will have a detrimental effect on Israel’s economy. Port Eilat is Israel’s most economically strategic port and, if it remains blocked, Israel will find it difficult to import food, weapons, and other goods from its seaports. 


While the impact of the blockade mostly affects shipping containers, some companies have decided to delay oil shipments. Many vessels initially decided to ignore US warnings to steer clear and continued sailing the Red Sea.

However, given that insurance companies are refusing to insure Western vessels, countries have increasingly decided to heed their warnings and reroute traffic. As a result, there has been a 40% drop in traffic in the Red Sea. The industry has not seen such a drop since the CoronaVirus.


Ansar Allah has allowed Chinese, Russian and even Saudi Arabian vessels to continue oil shipments through the Red Sea, though Qatar and China’s COSTCO initially delayed and halted oil shipments. Ironically, Ansar Allah attacked Aramco’s oil refinery in Riyadh as late as 2019. The fact that it has allowed Aramco and others safe passage is a testament to this enduring Saudi-Yemeni truce.


Because the blockade only applies to US, UK and Israeli vessels, insurance companies either refuse to insure them or charge them much high rates. Ansar Allah grants vessels from neutral countries safe passage, so long as they make it clear they have no contact with Israel.

So, the narrative that the blockade is a threat to global markets is not entirely true. Since the EU receives their oil shipments through this route, oil imports to the union have dropped by half. For similar reasons, UK exports have been harmed so the concern from such countries materially supporting Israel's genocide is not unfounded. 


Potential outcome 

Ansar Allah is now considering implementing its “Al Aqsa Triangle Plan.” Such a scenario would include cutting Israel and its supporters off from the Red Sea route to the Suez Canal, Bab El-Mandeb strait, and the Strait of Hormuz. This would effectively mean a de-facto “oil embargo” by cutting off European and Israeli gas imports from the route.

Such a move would shift the focus to Israel’s “land bridge” and leave it vulnerable to further attacks there. The “land bridge” is a route in which Israel’s key Arab trading partners deliver oil shipments by sea in UAE and from there the shipments are trucked to Saudi Arabia, to Jordan and then on to Israel. Not only would it cause oil prices to skyrocket, but it would also put a lot of pressure on Europe as they import oil from the same countries as Israel.

 It could have the same effect as the oil embargo scenario I described last November. Maybe this is what it will take for the West to rethink their “blank check” support of Israel, and for the Global South to finally unite in stopping Israel's genocide in Palestine.

Read Part 2 of this series here

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