Who are Yemen's anti-Western Houthis and why are they attacking Israel?

Who are Yemen’s anti-Western Houthis and why are they attacking Israel?

As the war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, has attracted more groups hostile to Israel. Cross-border fire has become a daily occurrence between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah. Yemen’s Houthi rebels have attempted to attack Israel with missiles and drones, and have attacked ships in the Red Sea, seizing an Israeli-owned ship in November.

1. Who are the Houthis?
They are an Iran-backed anti-Western, anti-Israel group that took control of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in 2014, starting a civil war that continues to this day. Part of a clan that hails from Yemen’s northwestern province of Saada, the Houthis are followers of the Zaidi branch of Shia Islam, to which an estimated 25% of the country’s population belongs. After North Yemen and South Yemen were unified in 1990, the Houthis waged a series of rebellions before successfully taking the capital in 2014.

2. What threat do the Houthis pose beyond Yemen?
The Houthis began attacking Saudi Arabia after it intervened in the Yemen war in 2015 on behalf of the government the Houthis ousted from the capital. Analysts say the Houthis get training, technical expertise and increasingly sophisticated weapons (including drones, ballistic and cruise missiles) from Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group. The Houthis have shown they can strike targets far beyond Yemen’s borders: They damaged Saudi oil infrastructure in 2019, killed three people in the emirate of Abu Dhabi in January 2022, and attacked an oil depot in the Saudi port city. from Jeddah two months later. Like the European Union, the United States classifies Hamas as a terrorist group. He revoked the label with reference to the Houthis in 2021, saying the designation could have a devastating impact on Yemenis’ access to basic goods such as food and fuel; The Biden administration said in mid-November that it was reviewing that rollback.

3. Have Yemen’s Houthis declared war on Israel?
The Houthis have declared an enemy Israel. In a televised statement in October following attempted missile and drone attacks on Israel, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said the movement was targeting the country “in support of our oppressed brothers in Palestine” and said the operations they would continue “until Israeli aggression ceases.” “Israel launched its military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in response to a massacre of Israelis on October 7 by Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

4. Can the Houthis really attack Israel?
The Houthis claim to possess a liquid-propelled missile that could have a range of 1,350 to 1,950 kilometers (839 to 1,212 miles), enough to potentially put Israel within striking distance, in one fell swoop. Yemen and Israel, separated by Saudi Arabia, are separated by about 1,580 kilometers at their closest point. The US military said cruise missiles and drones launched towards Israel on October 19 were intercepted by a US destroyer in the Red Sea. The Oct. 31 attack involved ballistic missiles and drones, according to the Houthis. Israel said its fighter jets and Arrow missile defense system shot down two salvos of incoming fire hours apart as it approached the Israeli Red Sea seaport of Eilat, the Associated Press reported. On December 6, the Israeli military said the Arrow intercepted a Houthi missile over the Red Sea.

5. What has been happening in the Red Sea?
In November, the Houthis seized a ship owned by a unit of Israeli businessman Rami Ungar’s Ray Shipping Group. The rebels said they would continue attacking Israeli ships until Israel’s military operation against Hamas ends. On Dec. 3, the U.S. military said one of its warships responded to distress calls from three ships over the course of the day, two of which matched the names of aircraft carriers the Houthis said they had attacked. The Red Sea is one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.

6. What triggered the civil war in Yemen?
In 2011, an Arab Spring revolt forced the country’s ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to resign after three decades in power. Under a U.S.-backed transition deal, President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi replaced him and the talks set the stage for a constitutional convention and new elections. The Houthis, however, rejected a federation plan that emerged from those discussions. In 2014, the government reduced fuel subsidies, sparking protests, and the Houthis ousted Hadi’s government, whose forces retain control of the eastern part of the country. Iran, with a Shiite majority, has helped the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, with a Sunni majority, has supported the government. The violence has devastated ordinary Yemenis, who say that between airstrikes, economic collapse and growing famine, life has become almost unbearable.

7. What are the prospects for peace in Yemen?
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have tried to negotiate a permanent ceasefire to the eight-year conflict. The Houthis said they were willing to join U.N.-led political settlement talks, subject to several conditions. However, talks collapsed when a rift opened between Saudi Arabia and its oil-rich Gulf neighbor the United Arab Emirates, which began supporting rival groups vying for control of the country.

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