Yemen is situated along the Red Sea between the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Suez Canal. Yemen’s pro-Iran policies make it dangerous to merchant shipping, Eilat and the Suez Canal.
Iran has pushed its proxy force in Yemen, the Shi’ite “Ansar Allah” organization of the Houthis, into the battle against Israel.
The Houthis, equipped with advanced weapons from Iran or of Iranian design, on Oct. 25 launched four land-based missiles and 14 drones north toward Israel. 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.
The destroyer, armed with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, intercepted most of the missiles and drones. According to security sources in Israel, one missile was intercepted by Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis officially took responsibility for the attack and continue to threaten Israel. Ahmed Hamed, director of the presidential office in Sana’a, Yemen, announced on the Houthis’ television channel on Oct. 25 that “the Palestinians will not be alone in the battle against Israel.”
He explained that the Houthis’ support for “Palestine” is an Islamic religious obligation 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.”
The Houthis claim to have a long account to settle with Israel; they charge Israel with providing drones to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with which to attack them in Yemen.
Security officials in Israel estimate that the Houthis’ threats in Yemen are serious and that further attacks on Israel can be expected. The Israel Defense forces, in coordination with the U.S. Central Command and Fifth Fleet, is preparing for aggression from Yemen.
The Houthi attack did not surprise the IDF. It was expected as part of Iran’s “unification of fronts” policy against Israel.
After Oct. 7, Iran launched a war of attrition against Israel on all its borders with the aim of preventing it from embarking on a major ground operation in the Gaza Strip to topple Hamas and destroy the organization’s military infrastructure in the Strip.
Houthis target Israel
The Houthis’ cruise missiles and drones possess a range of more than 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles). 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. Tehran’s stranglehold strategy against Israel was initially planned by Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Soleimani was assassinated in Iraq by the United States in Jan. 2020, after which the plan continued under the direction of his successor, Gen. Esmail Ghaani.
The Houthis in Yemen also have ballistic missiles, but Israel is also prepared for this scenario.
The Houthis’ missiles and drones are locally produced in Yemen using Iranian technology. The Houthis have amassed experience with these weapons—since the outbreak of the war in Yemen, they have fired hundreds of missiles and drones toward Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
This time, the Houthis’ attack was intercepted by the American military, but this does not mean that the IDF will not respond to such attacks in the future.
Despite its distance from Israel, the long arm of the Israeli Air Force can reach Yemen. Israel also has several means of defense against Houthi missiles and drones, including fighter planes, naval platforms or the “David’s Slingshot” and “Iron Dome” air defense systems.
Originally published by The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.