Anwar Ibrahim malaysia
© Prime Minister office via APAnwar Ibrahim, Prime Minister of Malaysia
Malaysia has made the move to protest "atrocities" against the Palestinians in Gaza

Malaysia will not allow Israeli-flagged ships or vessels headed for Israel to dock or load cargo at its ports, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim announced on Wednesday. The ban was implemented in protest against Israeli "atrocities and massacres" in Gaza, he added.

The Southeast Asian country had opened its ports to Israel-based ZIM Integrated Shipping Solutions in 2002, but has chosen to reverse that decision.

"These sanctions are a response to Israel's actions ignoring the basic principles of humanity and breaking international law through continued massacres and atrocities against Palestinians," Anwar said in a statement.

Sunni Islam is Malaysia's state religion, observed by almost two-thirds of its citizens. Kuala Lumpur has been an outspoken champion of the Palestinians and has chosen to maintain ties with Hamas, a group that runs Gaza but has been designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US and the EU.

Israel declared war on Hamas after the militants' October 7 surprise attack, in which an estimated 1,200 Israelis were killed. Since then, the Israeli offensive has resulted in the deaths of over 19,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the local health ministry.

According to Bloomberg, the Malaysian sanctions are largely symbolic. A far bigger problem for Israel has been the de facto blockade of its shipping through the Red Sea by the Houthis of Yemen, who have openly sided with the Palestinians in the conflict.

Earlier this week, the US announced that a multinational naval armada would be deployed to keep the sea route open, but the Houthis said nothing would deter them from "legitimate operations in support of Gaza."

Multiple major international shipping companies have already rerouted their vessels around Africa in response to missile and drone attacks by the Houthis on ships headed for, or otherwise linked to, Israel.