While the southern port city of Eilat has largely been quiet since the beginning of the war, being 175 miles away from the Gaza strip, events in recent days seemed to have disturbed the serene and laid back nature of Israel’s most prominent vacation spot, courtesy of none other than Yemen’s Islamist political and armed organization that emerged from the Yemeni governorate of Saada in the 1990s, called Ansar Allah, also knows as the Houthis.
Operating under the guise of “supporting our Palestinian brothers”, the Houthis serve as an additional tentacle of the Iranian octopus that finances them and gives them their marching orders from the safety of Tehran. After several ballistic missile launches toward Eilat, all of which were intercepted mid-flight, it seems they’ve now decided to escalate their offensive other nations in the region.
Both Head of the National Security Council Tzahi Hanegbi and IDF Spokesperson, Brigadier General Daniel Hagari, have declined to comment on how Israel intends to deal with the Houthi threat, but it’s clear the Israeli Defense Establishment is discussing it.
Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a senior political official and spokesman for the Houthis, said: “What the Americans and Israelis are most wary of is the expansion of the conflict to additional arenas, which is why the resistance axis must accelerate the crucial battle, escalating on all fronts. Our fallen are in heaven and theirs are in hell.”
In a subsequent interview with Lebanese outlet al-Mayadeen, al-Bukhaiti said the order to fire the ballistic missiles toward Israel’s southern tip came from the Houthis spiritual leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, more commonly referred to as Abu-Jibril, in response to Israel’s ground offensive inside the enclave and threats made by the US toward Yemen.
According to Abu-Jibril, The first two times the Houthis attempted to harm Israel were in response to US threats, and the third was because of the ground offensive. “Our attack was carried out with multiple ballistic missiles and UAVs. America has crossed all red lines with Yemen. We’ve achieved national unity by harming Israel.”
al-Bukhaiti went on to criticize the United Arab Emirates, an Abraham Accords signatory, for “taking part in the attack on Gaza”, stating that “there’s comprehensive cooperation between the leaders if the resistance axis, and I call on the masses to prepare for conflict regardless of whatever decision is made. We’ve contacted the UAE and Saudi Arabia to break the siege on Yemen and support Gaza, but they’ve refused.”
The Houthis messianic statements and affinity for armed conflict is in line with the story of their origin, borne out of a group called Shabab al-Mumineen (the Believing Youth) in the early 1990s. They aimed to raise awareness about the Zaydi branch of Shiite Islam, which had historically dominated Yemen but was marginalized after a civil war in the 1960s .
Another part of their anti-western sentiment came after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, which had a significant impact on the Houthi movement. Like many other Arabs, the Houthis were deeply radicalized by this event. They adopted slogans expressing opposition to the U.S. and Israel, which further solidified their identity and goals.
In terms of role models, the Houthis found inspiration and mentorship from Hezbollah, the Shiite movement in Lebanon. Despite being different kinds of Shiites, the two groups shared a natural attraction. Hezbollah provided expertise and inspiration to the Houthis, and Iran also provided secondary support due to their shared enmity towards Saudi Arabia, a Sunni stronghold.
The Sunni-Shiite conflict that took hold among the gulf states back in 2015 helped the Houthis gain experience and combat expertise in the void left inside a country embroiled in a massive Yemeni civil war. Saudi Arabia attacked Yemen and in response, Yemen reached out to the biggest Shiite nation of them all, Iran.
Using Ballistic missiles obtained from the Islamic Republic, the Houthis went on to attack both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as an American warship.
While ceasefire was declared in April of 2023, this week saw two Saudi soldiers killed near the Jizan district, in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern tip. This could have been a retaliation for the Saudis intercepting a Houthi missile launch toward Israel. If so, this could mean Israel and Saudi Arabia are on the same side of an ideological regional conflict.