Palestinian terror leaders, Houthi officials met to coordinate against Israel – report

Top figures from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and PFLP held discussions with Yemen’s Iran-backed rebels last week on ‘next stage’ of war, Palestinian sources say

Supporters of Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis march in the capital Sana'a on March 15, 2024, in support of Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)
Supporters of Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis march in the capital Sana'a on March 15, 2024, in support of Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)

Senior figures from Hamas and Yemen’s Houthi rebels held a rare meeting last week to discuss coordinating their actions against Israel, Palestinian factional sources told AFP.

A Houthi source later confirmed the talks, saying the sides discussed “expanding confrontations and encircling” Israel during the meeting in Lebanon.

Hamas and the Houthis belong to the “axis of resistance,” a collection of Iran-backed movements hostile to Israel and the United States that also includes Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group and Iraqi militias.

The Houthis have attacked Red Sea shipping for months since the Israel-Hamas war was triggered by the Palestinian terror group’s October 7 attack, saying they are targeting Israeli-linked vessels in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

However, the threat has now widened to other ships in the area.

According to sources from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, leaders from the two Palestinian Islamist terror groups, as well as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, held an “important meeting” with Houthi representatives last week.

The groups discussed “mechanisms to coordinate their actions of resistance” for the “next stage” of the war in Gaza, the sources said without identifying where the meeting took place.

Masked Hamas fighters parade with a drone on the back of a truck through the streets of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, May 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Yousef Masoud)

The Palestinian groups and the Houthis also talked about a possible Israeli ground assault into southern Gaza’s Rafah, said the sources, who requested anonymity.

The Houthis confirmed they would continue their attacks on Red Sea shipping to “support the Palestinian resistance,” according to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad sources.

Another Palestinian source, also requesting anonymity to share details of the meeting, told AFP that those present discussed the “complementary role of Ansar Allah (the Huthis) alongside Palestinian factions, especially in the event of an Israeli offensive on Rafah.”

The US Central Command said on Friday that Houthis fired three anti-ship ballistic missiles from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen toward the Red Sea.

It said there were no injuries or damage reported.

The attacks have escalated despite a US-led multinational response that has included strikes and interceptions to defend vessels in the Red Sea. The United States and Britain have launched strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen and redesignated the militia as a terrorist group.

Contrary to Iran’s claims that the Houthis act independently, the Biden administration has accused Tehran of being “deeply involved” in the planning of their attacks and the supply of weapons.

The Rubymar cargo ship sinking off the coast of Yemen after being hit in a Houthi missile attack, February 27, 2024. (AFP)

During recent indirect talks, Iran asked the Biden administration to bring about a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war while the US pressed Tehran to curb attacks by its proxies, including the Houthis, according to a New York Times report reported Friday.

The report offered further details on the January meeting in Oman between the Biden administration’s Middle East czar Brett McGurk and special envoy on Iran Abram Paley, and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani, which was first reported by The Financial Times.

In addition to asking Iran to rein in attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels and expressing concerns about its nuclear program, The New York Times said the American officials called for Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria to stop targeting US forces.

Citing US and Iranian officials, the report said Kani in turn relayed an Iranian request for the US to broker a ceasefire in Gaza, without specifying whether this meant a temporary truce or a permanent end to the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Iran is a key sponsor of the Gaza-ruling Palestinian terror group, and its leaders praised the October 7 onslaught that triggered the ongoing war.

Two Iranian officials were quoted saying that the Islamic Republic continued to deny it controls the activities of its proxies, in particular the Houthis, but said it could influence them to bring attacks to a complete stop only after a ceasefire is reached.

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