Yemen’s Houthi rebels threaten to attack Israel

Yemen’s Houthi rebels threaten to attack Israel

Leader of Iranian-backed group claims it has a ‘bank of targets’ prepared in revenge for alleged Israeli involvement in his country’s conflict

Yemeni soldiers secure Sanaa Airport, Yemen, November 28, 2019.  (Hani Mohammed/AP)
Yemeni soldiers secure Sanaa Airport, Yemen, November 28, 2019. (Hani Mohammed/AP)

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have threatened to attack Israel, claiming they have prepared a list of targets that can be hit at any time.

In an interview published Sunday, Houthi defense minister Major General Mohammed Al-Atefi claimed to the Al-Masira newspaper, which is aligned with the rebels, that Israel has been involved in the Yemen conflict since it began in 2015 and that “there’s no doubt revenge is coming.”

He said the Houthis have a “bank of military and maritime targets of the Zionist enemy” and that “we will not hesitate to attack them if the leadership decides to.”

His forces, which control the capital Sanaa, “have completed all aspects of military preparation to qualify it to launch a strategic attack leading to the paralysis of the enemies’ abilities,” Atefi said.

A Saudi Arabian-led coalition is supporting the forces of exiled Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi as they battle against the Houthi rebels. The existence of clandestine relations between Jerusalem and Riyadh, focused mainly on security issues, especially given their mutual enmity to Iran, are well-known, though the countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.

In October, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Iran was seeking to develop and deploy guided weapons that can strike any point in the Middle East, including placing them in Yemen to strike Israel.

Israel’s military has begun to believe that Tehran intends to eventually retaliate against Israel’s regular airstrikes against its forces and proxies in the region.

Such an action could take the form of a large-scale attack involving cruise missiles and attack drones, similar to the strike on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco petroleum facility that was attributed to Iran, the army has assessed.

The devastating September 14 combined drone and cruise missile barrage on two Saudi facilities temporarily knocked out half of the kingdom’s oil production.

Although Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility, Israel, the US, Britain, France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia accused Iran of being behind the attack. Tehran denies the allegation.

Last month, Reuters reported that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei personally approved the Aramco attack on condition the strike did not target civilians or Americans.

A Saudi military officer walks by what was described as the remains of Iranian cruise missiles and drones used in an attack that targeted the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, September 18, 2019. (Amr Nabil/AP)

An attack from Yemen may be difficult for Israel to intercept, as the Israel Defense Forces’ intermediate and long-range air defenses are better positioned to shoot down incoming rockets from Israel’s north, rather than the south.

Unlike ballistic missiles, which usually fly through a high arc on the way to the target, cruise missiles and drones fly at low altitude, making them harder to detect and intercept.

Last week a US Navy warship has seized a “significant cache” of suspected Iranian guided missile parts headed to rebels in Yemen, US officials said.

Israel has vowed to prevent Iran’s regional proxy militias from obtaining advanced weapons to use against the Jewish state and has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria that it says were to prevent delivery of weapons and to stop Iranian military entrenchment in that country.

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