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Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels attack Israel with drones and missiles, promise further strikes

The Houthis attacked Israel with ballistic missiles and drones as per "demands of Yemeni people" for the latter's actions in Gaza. This was the third Houthi attack against Israel since the October 7 and threatens to expand the current conflict in the Middle East.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Sanaa (Yemen) Updated on: October 31, 2023 21:57 IST
Houthis took control of Yemen's capital Sanaa in 2014.
Image Source : AP Houthis took control of Yemen's capital Sanaa in 2014.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels have taken responsibility for a series of missile and drone attacks on Israel on Tuesday amid the latter's war with the Hamas group in Gaza, and promised to carry out further strikes against the Jewish country as per the "demands of Yemeni people".

Yahya Saria, the spokesperson of the Houthi group, said that the aerial attacks were carried out due to a "sense of religious, moral, humanitarian, and national responsibility” for the people of Gaza, who face a rising humanitarian crisis due to Israeli bombardment, reported the Times of Israel.

The spokesperson said that this was the third Houthi attack against Israel since war broke out on October 7, in the face of the "weakness" of the Arab world and collusion of some of these countries with Israel, and promised to carry out further strikes. 

The drone and ballistic missiles struck Israel's Eilat on Tuesday morning and were intercepted by the Arrow air defence system. Some drones were shot down by Israeli fighter jets. The prime minister of the Houthi government, Abdelaziz bin Habtour, declared earlier today that the drones used in the attack “belong to the state of Yemen.”

For Israel, Tuesday's attack marked an incredibly rare reported in-combat use of the Arrow missile defence system, which intercepts long-range ballistic missiles with a warhead designed to destroy targets while they are in space, according to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

It wasn't clear whether American naval forces in the region saw the incoming fire, as the troop-and-aircraft-carrying USS Bataan and other elements of its strike group likely are in the Red Sea now, along with other US vessels.

Notably, Houthis, who seized Yemen's capital Sanaa in 2014, control large swaths of the country and are “part of the axis of resistance” against Israel along with Hamas, which is also backed by Iran. Tehran has indirectly threatened to enter the war if Israel does not stop its attack on Gaza.

Previous threats to Israel by Houthis

The Houthis have previously threatened to strike Israel to support Iran as well as Hamas, which unleashed a deadly surprise attack on Israel that killed more than 1,400 people. However, this is the first time they have displayed this form of long-range capability, as per reports.

The Houthis are known to be one of the most powerful members of Iranian-backed proxy armies, known as the Axis of Resistance. They share the same animosity toward Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, they have beenc focused on fighting US allies in the Middle East and have rarely engaged in conflicts with Israel.

Iran has long denied arming the Houthis even as it has been transferring rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, missiles and other weaponry to the Yemeni militia using sea routes. A UN arms embargo that has prohibited weapons transfers to the Houthis since 2014.

The military capability of Houthis has risen considerably since they took over Sanaa, as seen in a massive military parade in September aimed at showing their arsenal, which contains Iranian-designed ballistic missiles and anti-ship missile systems. 

The current war has already involved another member of Iran's Axis of Resistance, the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group, which is currently engaged in fighting Israeli forces at the border. The Houthis' declaration further draws Iran into the conflict.

Iran warns Israel of 'possible action'

Two days ago, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday warned the Israeli forces of the possible interference of other countries to take action against it and said that Israel has crossed 'red lines'.

"Zionist regime's crimes have crossed the red lines, which may force everyone to take action. Washington asks us to not do anything, but they keep giving widespread support to Israel," he said.

This came after US military on Friday forces struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and affiliated terror proxies. The strikes came in response to a series of attacks this week by Iranian-backed groups against American personnel stationed in Iraq and Syria.

Earlier, Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Iran is assisting Hamas by supplying it with intelligence and is also boosting anti-Israel incitement worldwide.

(with agency inputs)

ALSO READ | Israel-Hamas war: 800,000 Palestinians flee to southern Gaza as Israeli troops ramp up attack

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