If things weren’t complicated enough in the Middle East, the Iran-backed Houthi terrorist rebels in Yemen have effectively declared war on Israel. On Oct. 19, the USS Carney shot down 15 drones launched from Yemen while on station in the Red Sea. On Oct. 31, the Houthis, which the Biden administration took off the US State Department list of terrorist organizations, claimed responsibility for the attack of drones and other missiles aimed at Israel.
Yemen Takes on Israel
The Houthis are one of Tehran’s most belligerent proxies in the Gulf region. According to the Associated Press, the terrorist group’s spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, boasted in a television address:
“Our armed forces launched a large batch of ballistic missiles and a large number of drones at various targets of the Israeli enemy … The Yemeni Armed Forces confirm that this operation is the third operation in support of our oppressed brothers in Palestine and confirm that we will continue to carry out more qualitative strikes with missiles and drones until the Israeli aggression stops.”
The Israel Defense Force (IDF) confirmed that all threats targeting the nation had been intercepted, and no Houthi-launched weapons had entered Israeli airspace. For the first time, the “new Arrow missile defense system shot down two salvos of incoming” missiles approximately five hours apart, the AP reported. “The IDF confirmed that a surface-to-surface missile had been fired toward Israeli territory from the direction of the Red Sea, but not did [sic] specify whether it had originated in Yemen,” NBC News correspondent Courtney Kube wrote, adding that Houthi rebels “fired a medium-range ballistic missile from Yemen toward Israel on Tuesday [Oct. 31], according to two US officials.”
Defense Department Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder was asked about the Houthi missiles fired at Israel. He responded, “So, I’ll tell you what I know. Right now, we are aware that the Houthis did fire a medium-range ballistic missile or cruise missile, uh, to targeting Israel. Israel did take it down. The IDF did take it down … We want to prevent a broader regional conflict.” With the recent Houthi attack over the Red Sea, it would seem that has already taken place.
In another recent Defense Department briefing to the Pentagon press corps, a senior official made clear where the United States puts the responsibility: “[L]et’s be clear that Iran has been increasing the sophistication and lethality of equipment that it’s been providing to the Houthis for years. So, I think it’s fair to say when you see this uptick in activity and attacks by many of these groups, there’s Iranian fingerprints all over it.”
Use of the Arrow air defense system indicated the threat may have been a medium-range ballistic missile with an operational radius of 1,240 miles, more evidence of Iran’s unseen hand at the Houthi tiller. It does widen the threat aperture for Israel’s air defense needs, although the Arrow system was designed to intercept and destroy longer range missiles even at the top of their trajectory in space.
The Houthi hostilities against Israel signal an expansion of war in the Gulf region, opening a southern front the IDF likely had not anticipated, although not as daunting as Hezbollah to the north. But the action puts Iran undeniably in the middle of the fray. The regional battleground has expanded.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.