Malaysia bans Israeli-flagged ships from using its ports in response to Gaza war

PM Anwar Ibrahim accuses Israel of ignoring ‘basic humanitarian principles,’ singles out shipping giant ZIM as being blocked from docking at country’s sea terminals

Illustrative: A ZIM container ship at the Haifa port, November 14, 2011. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)
Illustrative: A ZIM container ship at the Haifa port, November 14, 2011. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

Malaysia banned on Wednesday Israeli-flagged cargo ships from docking at its ports in response to Israel’s actions in Gaza, which it said ignores “basic humanitarian principles.”

Ships on their way to Israel will also be barred from loading cargo at any port in the largely Muslim Southeast Asian nation with immediate effect, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said in a statement.

Anwar singled out Israel’s biggest shipping firm, ZIM.

Malaysia’s cabinet authorized ZIM to dock its vessels at Malaysian ports in 2002 but Wednesday’s statement said that authorization had been rescinded.

“The Malaysian government decided to block and disallow the Israeli-based shipping company ZIM from docking at any Malaysian port,” Anwar said.

“These sanctions are a response to Israel’s actions that ignore basic humanitarian principles and violate international law through the ongoing massacre and brutality against Palestinians.”

Malaysia “also decided to no longer accept ships using the Israeli flag to dock in the country” and ban “any ship on its way to Israel from loading cargo in Malaysian ports.”

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, walks to attend the 50th anniversary of the ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation luncheon meeting at KEIDANREN (Japan Business Federation) in Tokyo, December 18, 2023. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

Anwar said Malaysia was confident its trade would not be affected by the decision.

Malaysia does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

The war began when Hamas terrorists burst out of Gaza on October 7, killing around 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and abducting at least 240, of all ages, who were taken as hostages into Gaza.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, remove it from power, and release the hostages, Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza including a ground invasion.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has claimed that, since the start of the war, 19,667 people have been killed, mostly civilians. These figures cannot be independently verified and are believed to include at least 7,000 Hamas terrorists, according to Israel, as well as civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets. Another estimated 1,000 terrorists were killed in Israel during the October 7 onslaught.

International pressure is mounting for a new truce, similar to a week-long lull in November, that could ramp up aid to the besieged Palestinian territory, with the United Nations due to vote Wednesday on calling for a ceasefire. During the November lull 105 hostages were released in exchange for increased humanitarian aid to Gaza while Israel released over 300 Palestinian security prisoners it was holding, all of them women or youths.

The shipping industry is already reeling from the war, with Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen attacking ships passing by that country to enter the Red Sea, the southern gateway to the Suez Canal. The rebel group announced that it would hit any ship heading to Israel or linked to it, though a number of vessels with no apparent connection to Israel have been targeted as well.

The US this week announced a multi-national naval operation to protect vessels from attacks by Houthis.

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