Israel has deployed its Iron Dome and Patriot air defence batteries around the southern city of Eilat over concerns of an attack by Houthi forces from Yemen.
According to a report last week by Israeli broadcaster Kan, the Israeli military has been preparing for the possibility of a strike by Iran-backed Iraqi militias and the Houthis. These fears were heightened on the first anniversary of America's assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and the more recent targeted killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in late November. Tehran blames Israel for the latter and has vowed revenge.
אי שם היום בדרום הרחוק: מערך ההגנה האווירית של חיל האוויר מתגבר כוננות והיערכות באיזור אילת ובמקומות נוספים בדרום הרחוק בעקבות האיומים האיראניים לנקמה סביב יום השנה לחיסולו של קאסם סולימאני, כאשר הרמטכל אביב כוכבי דיבר באחרונה על המאמץ האיראני להתבסס גם בתימן. pic.twitter.com/hvcoae1p1d
— Or Heller אור הלר (@OrHeller) January 6, 2021
Israeli army spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told a Saudi news outlet last month that Israel had intelligence suggesting that Iran is developing drones and "smart weapons" in Iraq and Yemen with the capability of striking Israel.
This week the Iranian army held a large-scale drone military exercise, showcasing a wide range of domestically-manufactured unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with ranges reported to be from 20km to 1,000km.
The leader of the Houthi movement, Sayyid Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, has previously threatened to strike Israel and has been a sharp critic of last year's normalisation between Arab states and the occupation state. He described Israel as "the chief enemy of the Muslim world" and warned Saudi Arabia and the UAE back in June against normalising ties.
Last year, the Defence Minister in the de-facto Houthi-led government based in Sanaa, General Mohammed Al-Atefi, stated that a "bank of military and maritime targets" in Israel had already been identified. "We will not hesitate to attack them if the leadership decides to do so," he insisted.
The Houthi authorities are also concerned about Israel's ambitions in the Red Sea and Bab el-Mandeb Strait, as well as developments on the Yemeni island of Socotra, which is currently under the control of UAE-backed forces. There are reports of Emirati-Israeli plans to establish a joint military base on the island.