A Sanaa-based journalist reportedly linked to the Houthis warns Israel that the rebels possess advanced weapons capable of reaching deep inside Israeli territory. What could trigger such an attack? “Any direct or indirect involvement by Israel in the war against Yemen”, he says.
As if the constant threat of Hamas militants from Gaza was not enough, Israel is now facing another challenge – this time emanating from thousands of kilometres away in Yemen.
Recent reports suggest Yemen’s Houthi rebels, considered an ally of Iran and consequently an enemy of Israel, have received a number of unmanned aircraft loaded with explosives that are capable of reaching targets outside the Gulf, potentially posing a threat to the Jewish state.
But even before those reports came to light, the Israeli media had warned that the Jewish state should not underestimate the capabilities of the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Hussein Al Bukhaiti, a Yemeni journalist, believed to have ties to the Houthis, says that from the information he possesses the Houthi rebels do have a number of drones and even long-range ballistic missiles “that can reach any target” within Israel.
“The leader of the Houthis [Abdul Malik al-Houthi] said months ago that Yemen has the capacity to strike deep inside Israel… they can also hit the water lane in the Red Sea so all of Israel’s commercial and military ships could come under attack. And when the Houthis say this, I believe them”, said the journalist.
And so does Israel. Two weeks ago, the Israeli military deployed its Iron Dome and Patriot air defence systems in the southern city of Eilat for fear of a potential strike from Yemen. Other reports suggested that the Jewish state was following the situation in Yemen closely, preparing itself for a worst case scenario.
Yemen’s Red Line
Al Bukhaiti believes Israel has every reason to worry, especially if they “dare to conduct any attack on Yemen” or help others do so.
By “others” Al Bukhaiti means Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who have been entangled in the war in Yemen since 2015.
Following a normalisation agreement between Israel and the UAE, greenlighted by Riyadh, the two states bolstered their cooperation in many fields and the Houthis believe part of the deal was the Jewish state would assist the Gulf monarchies in the war in Yemen.
These allegations are not far-fetched. For instance, two years ago it was reported that the Saudis had purchased Israel’s Iron Dome systems to protect the country from potential strikes emanating from Iran or Yemen.
And in 2020 other reports suggested that Israel and the UAE would open their first military base directly opposite the shores of Yemen.
If these allegations are true, the Houthi rebels will find it hard to cope with yet another player in an already complex situation, and this is why Al Bukhaiti says “direct or indirect involvement” by Israel would be a declaration of war that will trigger a Yemeni attack.
If that happens, Israel will not be sitting idly by, and any potential war that could ensue would be devastating for Yemen, who has already suffered greatly from continuous conflict, famine, and the coronavirus pandemic.
But Al Bukhaiti says these factors will not deter the Houthis, should they face the challenge of Israel.
“We have experienced starvation, blockade, and destruction because of the Saudi-led intervention. They came and destroyed everything here: schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, parks. They took away our income. But although we might be hungry, we are also well equipped and we will fight. This war will only unite us”.