Eilat-bound missile fired from Yemen, intercepted by Arrow over Red Sea

Long-range air defense system shoots down latest attack by Iran-backed Houthis; Hezbollah continues strikes on northern border

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

File: An Arrow interceptor missile is launched at a target over the Red Sea in October 2023. (Defense Ministry)
File: An Arrow interceptor missile is launched at a target over the Red Sea in October 2023. (Defense Ministry)

Israel’s long-range Arrow air defense system on Wednesday shot down a ballistic missile, fired by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, over the Red Sea, the military said.

The incident set off sirens in the southernmost city of Eilat, though the Israel Defense Forces said the surface-to-surface missile did not enter Israeli airspace.

“The target did not cross into Israeli territory, and did not pose a threat to civilians. The alert was activated according to protocol,” the IDF said in a statement.

The Iran-backed rebel group later claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it fired a number of missiles at “military targets” in the Eilat area.

The Houthis have fired several ballistic missiles and drones at Eilat since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war in October, all of which were intercepted or missed their targets.

Wednesday’s Arrow interception was its fourth interception of a ballistic missile, all of which occurred amid the war in Gaza. Cruise missiles and drones launched by the Houthis in recent weeks have been taken out by Israeli fighter jets.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital Sanaa in 2014 and control large swaths of the country, are “part of the axis of resistance” against Israel along with Hamas — which is also sponsored by Tehran.

Houthi rebels have expressed support for the Palestinians and threatened Israel amid the Israel-Hamas war. The Iranian-backed group’s slogan is “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam.”

Iran has warned repeatedly that Israel could face wider threats if it does not halt its war against Gazan terrorists, launched after Hamas’s October 7 terrorist rampage through southern Israel.

On Sunday, ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis struck three commercial ships in the Red Sea, while a US warship shot down three drones in self-defense during an hourlong assault, the US military said.

In November, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship linked to Israel in the Red Sea off Yemen. The rebels still hold the vessel near the port city of Hodeida. Missiles also landed near another US warship last week after it assisted a vessel linked to Israel that had briefly been seized by gunmen.

This photo released by the Houthi Media Center shows Houthi forces boarding the cargo ship Galaxy Leader on Sunday, November 19, 2023. (Houthi Media Center via AP)

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, another Iran-backed group, has carried out daily attacks on northern Israel amid the Gaza war.

The IDF said it had been shelling Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon with artillery and tank fire since Wednesday morning. An IDF drone also hit a Hezbollah command room and another site belonging to the terror group, it said.

The strikes came amid Hezbollah’s repeated attacks.

Several rockets were fired at IDF posts along the border on Wednesday, the IDF said, with Hezbollah claiming responsibility for the attacks.

Israel’s northern border with Lebanon has heated up significantly since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, with Hezbollah seeking to tie down troops with a steady stream of low-level clashes and attacks.

Since the cross-border exchanges began, six soldiers and three civilians have been killed on the Israeli side.

According to an AFP tally, 107 people have been killed on the Lebanese side. The toll includes at least 14 civilians, three of them journalists.

Hezbollah has said that 79 of its members have been killed since the war’s outbreak in southern Lebanon.

Israel launched its war on Hamas in Gaza after thousands of terrorists infiltrated into southern Israel on October 7, massacring some 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and taking some 240 hostages. Daily exchanges of fire and attacks, with Hezbollah, Hamas and other terror groups have raised fears of a broader conflagration.

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