Missile from Yemen intercepted over Red Sea as Houthi chief vows to keep up attacks

Arrow system downs long-range projectile aimed at Eilat; air defense also fired at target earlier, triggering sirens; Houthis claim launches, say they seek to hit Israeli ships

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)

A surface-to-surface missile, believed to have been launched from Yemen by Iran-backed Houthi rebels toward Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat, was intercepted over the Red Sea Tuesday, as the group’s leader claimed responsibility and vowed to continue attacks on Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said the long-range Arrow air defense system had been used to shoot down the missile.

Sirens sounded in Eilat for the second time in the day, though the IDF said the missile did not enter Israeli airspace.

Earlier, the military said rocket sirens had sounded due to an air defense missile being fired at an “aerial target.”

The IDF said there had been no actual infiltration into Israeli airspace.

It was unclear what the target was, or whether it was intercepted.

Last week, a drone launched from Syria crashed into a school in Eilat, causing some damage to the school. There were no serious injuries in the blast, but the Magen David Adom ambulance service treated five people for acute anxiety, as well as a man in his 20s for smoke inhalation.

The IDF said at the time that it had targeted the organization in Syria that launched the drone, without specifying who was behind the attack or what the air force hit.

The scene of a blast in Eilat caused by a drone launched from Syria, November 9, 2023. (Courtesy)

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

They have said they are acting as part of the “axis of resistance” against Israel, which includes Iran-backed terror groups in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

The leader of the Houthis, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, vowed to target Israeli ships that might pass through the Red Sea in response to the offensive against Hamas, and reiterated that the launching of missiles and drones into southern Israel “will continue.”

“Our eyes are open to constant monitoring and searching for any Israeli ship,” he said in a speech broadcast by the rebels’ Al-Masirah TV station.

“The enemy relies on camouflage in its movement in the Red Sea, especially in Bab al-Mandab [strait], and did not dare to raise Israeli flags on its ships… and turned off identification devices.”

“We will search and verify the ships that belong to him, and we will not hesitate to target them, and let everyone know that he is afraid,” he added.

The Bab al-Mandab Strait is the narrow pass between Yemen and Djibouti at the foot of the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes which carries about a fifth of global oil consumption.

The recent attacks are the first entry into a foreign war for the Houthis, who control much of impoverished Yemen and have been fighting a Saudi-led coalition since 2015.

“Our missiles and drones will continue,” Houthi said.

Houthi also criticized the meeting of Arab and Muslim leaders held in Riyadh on Saturday, saying it “did not come up with any position or practical action, and this is sad and shameful.”

The joint Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit condemned Israeli forces’ actions in Gaza but declined to approve punitive economic and political steps.

The rebel leader urged countries separating Yemen from the West Bank and Gaza — Saudi, Jordan, and Egypt — to open a “land crossing” to allow fighters to join the war alongside Hamas.

Last Thursday marked the first time that Israel’s most advanced air defense system, the Arrow 3, made a successful interception of a missile, striking down a surface-to-surface missile fired by the Houthis, according to the Israel Defense Forces and the Defense Ministry.

Previous interceptions with the Arrow system in recent weeks were downed using the older Arrow 2 missile.

The Arrow 3, first deployed in 2017, is designed to take out ballistic missiles while they are still outside the atmosphere.

The Arrow air defense system is seen in a video published by the Defense Ministry on November 13, 2023. (Defense Ministry)

The ongoing war erupted when Hamas terrorists stormed from Gaza into southern Israel on October 7, massacring some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing over 240 hostages in the deadliest attack in the Jewish state’s history.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims that more than 11,000 people, most of them children and women, have been killed in Israeli strikes in the Strip. That figure cannot be verified independently and is thought to include the terror group’s own fighters as well as Palestinian civilians killed by misfired rockets from Gaza.

Since the conflict began, there have been a string of attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria as well as almost daily exchanges of fire across the Israel-Lebanon border between Hezbollah and the IDF.

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