Yemen's Houthis Join Israel-Hamas War
Yemen's Houthi rebels have fired drones and missiles at Israel, escalating the regional risks of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Yemen's Houthi rebels, part of the "Axis of Resistance" supported by Iran, have entered the Israel-Hamas conflict by launching drones and missiles at Israel from their base in Sanaa, more than 1,000 miles away. This move highlights the regional risks associated with the ongoing conflict. The Houthis, who have been at war with a Saudi-led coalition for eight years, have now joined forces with the Palestinians since Hamas initiated the attack on Israel on October 7. This has created a new front for the Houthis, who have previously demonstrated their military capabilities in the Yemen war by launching attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Yahya Saree, the Houthi military spokesperson, confirmed in a televised statement that they had launched a significant number of ballistic missiles and drones towards Israel. He also stated that there would be more attacks to come in order to support the Palestinians. This further expands the scope of the conflict, causing concern among states such as Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, as they fear the conflict could spill over into their territory.
Saree's statement also suggests that the Houthis were responsible for previous attacks on Israel, including a drone attack on October 28 that resulted in explosions in Egypt, and an incident on October 19 where the US navy intercepted three cruise missiles. However, when asked about Israel's potential response to the Houthi attacks, Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi declined to provide details.
The Houthis, who chant slogans such as "Death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews and victory to Islam," are a significant part of the "Axis of Resistance" that opposes Israel and the United States. This alliance has been carrying out attacks across the region since October 7. Other groups within this alliance, such as Iran-backed Iraqi militias and Lebanon's Hezbollah, have also been involved in conflicts with US and Israeli forces.
The Saudi-led coalition has accused Iran of supporting the Houthis by providing them with weapons, training, and funding. However, the Houthis deny being an Iranian proxy and claim to develop their own weapons. The United States, as Israel's main ally, has deployed aircraft carriers in the region to deter the spread of the Gaza conflict. Iran has also expressed its desire to prevent the war from escalating further.
Despite the Houthi attacks on Israel, Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center believes that, for now, these attacks are more about sending a message than posing a significant military threat. He suggests that the real risk to Israel would be an all-out engagement with multiple rocket launches from various directions that could overwhelm Israel's air defenses.
While Yemen has experienced relative calm in recent years due to a UN-led peace initiative, the Houthi attacks on Israel have increased the risk of conflict for Saudi Arabia. The flight path for any drone or missile launched from Yemen passes over western Saudi Arabia near the Red Sea before reaching Israel via Jordan. Saudi Arabia has been engaged in talks with the Houthis in an attempt to end the war and focus on economic priorities. However, the conflict's potential to draw Saudi Arabia into taking sides between the US, Israel, and Iran is a major concern for the kingdom.
In 2019, the Houthis claimed responsibility for an attack that temporarily disrupted more than half of Saudi Arabia's oil output. The United States accused Iran of being behind the attack, a claim that Tehran denied.