Ex-senior Houthi official warns that Iran-backed group will eventually hit Tel Aviv

Former spokesperson Ali Al Bukhaiti cautions that Yemen-based terror movement should not be treated as a joke, is gaining popularity around world for its attacks on Israel

Screen capture from video of former Houthi spokesperson Ali Al Bukhaiti talking to Channel 12, December 30, 2023. (Channel 12. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of former Houthi spokesperson Ali Al Bukhaiti talking to Channel 12, December 30, 2023. (Channel 12. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Yemen-based Houthi movement, which is threatening global trade routes with attacks on ships transiting the Red Sea, can be expected to eventually strike Tel Aviv, a former spokesman for the terror group claimed in an interview with Channel 12.

Ali Al Bukhaiti warned that the Iran-backed group’s attempted missile attacks on Israel, as well as its strikes on ships in the Red Sea, are earning it popularity in the Middle East and in other countries around the world, including Europe.

UK-based Bukhaiti, a former spokesman for the Houthis who said he left the group when he saw it diverge from it origins as an “educational movement” into “a terror group,” spoke to the network on Saturday.

“The Houthis aren’t just dangers to the citizens of Yemen, they are dangerous to the region and the entire world,” he said.

“The world doesn’t believe that, but today the world has started paying a price,” he said, referring to the disruption caused by attacks on shipping, and noted that trade prices are going up not just in Israel but also in Europe.

“It can be assumed that in the future if the Houthis have missiles with longer ranges and greater accuracy, they will hit Israel, they will hit Tel Aviv,” Bukhaiti said. “From their point of view, there is no difference between a civilian and a member of the military.”

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

The Iran-backed Houthis have repeatedly targeted vessels in the vital Red Sea shipping lane with strikes that they say are in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel has been engaged in a war with the ruling Hamas movement since the Palestinian terror group’s deadly October 7 onslaught in southern Israel in which terrorists massacred 1,200 people and seized 240 hostages.

Aside from targeting ships, the Houthis have also fired several missiles and drones at southern Israel that were intercepted before they reached the country.

Bukhaiti said the Houthis’ recent attacks earned them fans in China, Russia, Europe, and other countries, “and that is a new danger.”

“The popularity of the Houthis went up a lot in the Arab and Islamic world, and even certain Western countries” he continued. Even in Yemen, where the Houthis are not liked by many, there is popular support for their attacks on Israel, he said.

The situation, he said, is similar to Palestinians who “are happy that Hamas is bombing Israel but are not fans of Hamas as a movement.”

“They want revenge on Israel,” he said of the Palestinians.

A Houthi drone is seen over the Red Sea, shortly before being downed by an Israeli fighter jet, December 26, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Bukhaiti stressed that the Houthis are not just an Iranian proxy.

“The idea that the Houthis carry out the instruction of Iran is mistaken and belittles the movement,” he maintained. “The aggressiveness of the movement comes from within, from its very definition.”

He pointed out that there are religious differences between the Houthis and Iran, even though both are Shiites.

Nonetheless, the two entities are allied over mutual concerns, among them opposition to Israel, he said.

Bukhaiti cautioned against treating the Houthis as “a joke,” a mistake he said was made by Saudi Arabia, and now by Israel and the US.

The Saudis also thought that the Houthis didn’t need to be taken seriously, he said, “until a Houthi missile reached Riyadh and Jeddah, and the Saudi oil company Aramco.”

Armed forces loyal to Yemen’s Houthi rebels march through the streets of Sanaa in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians on October 15, 2023. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)

The recent attacks by the Yemeni rebels — who have said they are targeting Israel and Israeli-linked vessels — are endangering a transit route that carries up to 12 percent of global trade, prompting the United States to set up a multinational naval task force earlier this month to protect Red Sea shipping.

Bukhaiti speculated that if the Houthis were to hit an American warship in the region, the US would struggle to respond.

“The Houthis have no permanent military bases, they are armed militias,” Bukhaiti said. “The USA can’t harm them. If the US opens a war it will harm the Yemeni civilians.”

“The Houthis hide, it [the USA] doesn’t know where they are,” he added. “They fight like a gang. They bomb, and attack, and then hide under the ground in tunnels.”

While the rebel group continues to claim it is only targeting ships with connections to Israel, it has broadened this to include virtually any ships passing through the shipping route, including those flagged to countries such as Norway and Libya.

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