Israel’s Arrow knocks down Houthi ballistic missile headed for Eilat

Surface-to-surface missile intercepted over Red Sea, in latest attack by Iran-backed group in Yemen

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

Smoke from an Arrow interceptor missile is seen near Eilat, February 2, 2024. (Screenshot: X)
Smoke from an Arrow interceptor missile is seen near Eilat, February 2, 2024. (Screenshot: X)

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

Footage from Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat showed a trail of smoke from the Arrow missile launch.

The Israel Defense Forces said the surface-to-surface missile was headed toward Israel, likely aimed for Eilat, when it was shot down over the Red Sea using the Arrow system.

The Iran-backed group’s military spokesperson later said they carried out a military operation toward Eilat with ballistic missiles.

The Houthis have fired several ballistic missiles and drones at Eilat, in solidarity with the Gaza Strip, where Israel is battling Hamas terrorists. All of the projectiles have been intercepted or missed their target. An Iran-backed group in Syria also launched drones at Eilat, hitting a school in November.

Friday’s Arrow interception was its fifth interception of a ballistic missile, all of which occurred amid the war in Gaza. Cruise missiles and drones launched by the Houthis in recent months 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.”

In the Red Sea, the Houthis have fired on commercial and military ships almost 40 times since November. In the latest attack, they fired a ballistic missile at a Liberian-flagged container ship on Thursday, US defense officials said.

The Houthis say they are targeting ships over Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas. But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade between Asia, the Mideast and Europe.

The war began on October 7, when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages of all ages. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities amid acts of brutality were civilians.

The Houthis say the strikes are in solidarity with the people of Gaza, where the Hamas-run health ministry says more than 27,000 people have been killed in the conflict, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes some 10,000 Hamas terrorists Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 gunmen inside Israel on October 7.

Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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