“Dozens of layoffs”… How did the Houthi attacks affect Israel’s gateway to the east?

Officials said on Wednesday that half of the workers at the Eilat Port in Israel are at risk of losing their jobs after the port was hit by a major financial crisis as a result of disruption to shipping lanes in the Red Sea.

The port of Eilat is located on the northern end of the Red Sea and was one of the first ports to be affected after shipping companies changed the course of ships to avoid Houthi attacks in Yemen.

The port administration announced its intention to lay off half of the 120 employees. In response, dock workers organized a protest on Wednesday.

The port of Eilat mainly deals with imports of cars and exports of potash coming from the Dead Sea, and is smaller in size compared to the ports of Haifa and Ashdod on the Mediterranean, which handle almost all of the country’s trade.

But the port of Eilat, located next to Jordan’s only coastal port at Aqaba, provides Israel with a gateway to the east without the need to navigate the Suez Canal.

Eilat Port CEO Gideon Golber said that this step is the last option after losses and a slowdown in activity for months.

Golber added, “I was hoping that the coalition countries would solve the problem within a few months,” referring to a multinational security initiative led by the United States to protect the vital shipping lane in the Red Sea from attacks by the Houthi movement. “But they do not solve the problem,” he continued.

He explained that ships still avoid docking in Eilat. If the government does not step in to help pay salaries, layoffs are inevitable. The remaining workforce can maintain minimal operations, he said.

The decision is opposed by the Federation of Trade Unions (Histadrut), an organization that brings together hundreds of thousands of public sector workers under its umbrella.

The Houthis also launched drones and missiles at Israel in a move they say is aimed at supporting the Palestinians in the Gaza war.

Israeli officials say that the alternative route to the Red Sea requires a detour around the southern tip of the African continent, which prolongs trips to the Mediterranean for two to three weeks and thus increases the cost.

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