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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The Houthis in Yemen Have Joined the Battle against Israel

Filed under: Operation Swords of Iron, Yemen

The Houthis in Yemen Have Joined the Battle against Israel
Houthi forces held a military parade on September 21, 2023, commemorating the ninth anniversary of their takeover of the capital, Sanaa.

The Houthis in Yemen joined the battle against Israel. On October 19, 2023, they fired four land-attack cruise missiles and 14 drones that the American Navy intercepted.

A new and dangerous phase in the war against Israel has opened with another front against Israel. Israel can meet the challenge but will also seek help from the United States.

Yemen is situated along the Red Sea between the Bab el Mandeb Straits and the Suez Canal. Yemen’s pro-Iran policies make it dangerous to merchant shipping, Eilat, and the Suez Canal.

Map of the Red Sea
The Red Sea from Yemen and the Bab el Mandeb Straits to the Mediterranean Sea (Eric Gaba/GFDL)

Iran pushed its affiliate in Yemen, the Shia “Ansar Allah” organization of the Houthis, into the battle against Israel.

The Houthis, equipped with advanced weapons from Iran or Iranian design, launched four land-based missiles and 14 drones north toward Israel. On Wednesday, the American missile destroyer, USS Carney, had just transited into the Red Sea through the Suez Canal and was sailing in the northern stretch of the narrow sea that borders Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

USS Carey destroyer
The United States Navy has moved naval forces to the Mediterranean and Arabian Sea region. Above, the USS Carey destroyer. (US Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Xavier Jimenez)

The destroyer, armed with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, intercepted most of the missiles and drones from Yemen. According to security sources in Israel, one missile was intercepted by Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis officially took responsibility for the attack on Israel and continued to threaten Israel despite its failure. Ahmed Hamed, director of the presidential office in Sana’a, Yemen, announced on the Houthis’ television channel on October 25, 2023, that “the Palestinians will not be alone in the battle against Israel.”

He explained that the Houthis’ support for “Palestine” is a religious obligation from the Koran that Yemen respects and will not give up even if the whole world does.

Salim Al-Ma’als, a member of the political bureau of the Ansar Allah organization, said, “Yemen is ready for a confrontation on more than one front.”

Security officials in Israel estimate that the Houthis’ threats in Yemen are serious and that further attacks on Israel can be expected after the IDF’s ground operation in the Gaza Strip begins.

The IDF is well-coordinated with the U.S. Central Command and Fifth Fleet, preparing for aggression from Yemen. The attack by the Houthis toward Israel did not surprise the IDF. It was expected as part of Iran’s “unification of fronts” policy against Israel.

After October 7, Iran began a war of attrition against Israel on all borders to prevent it from embarking on a major ground operation in the Gaza Strip aimed at toppling the rule of Hamas and destroying the organization’s military infrastructure in the Strip.

Houthis Target Israel

Israel is within the range of the Houthis’ cruise missiles and drones in Yemen, which have a range of more than 2,000 km. The Houthis announced two years ago that they had prepared a target bank for Israel.

Iran has been preparing its proxies in the Middle East for a campaign against Israel for several years. The stranglehold strategy against Israel was initially planned by Qassem Soleimani, commander of the “Quds” force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Soleimani was assassinated in Iraq by the United States, and the plan continued to be directed by his successor, General Ismail Kaani.

The Houthis in Yemen also have ballistic missiles that fly faster than the cruise missiles toward the target, but Israel is also prepared for this scenario. These missiles and drones are locally produced in Yemen using Iranian technology. The Houthis have amassed experience in launching missiles and drones. Since the war in Yemen broke out, they have fired hundreds of missiles and drones toward Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

This time, the missiles and drones launched from Yemen at Israel were intercepted by the American military, but this does not mean that the IDF will not respond in the future to any attack by the Houthis.  Despite the great distance from Israel, the long arm of the Israeli Air Force can also reach Yemen. Israel also has several means to defend against missiles and drones launched from Yemen: it can intercept them with fighter planes, naval platforms, or the “David’s Slingshot” and “Iron Dome” air defense systems.

The Houthis claim to have a long account with Israel; they charge Israel provided drones to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to attack them in Yemen.