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Israel adds Yemen to its active combat fronts

January 12, 2021 at 11:00 am

A fighter loyal to Yemen’s Huthi rebels treads on US and Israeli flags painted on the ground during a rally in the capital Sanaa, on 22 August 2020, to protest the US-brokered deal to normalise Emirati-Israeli relations. [MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP via Getty Images]

The Israelis have significantly increased talk about the emergence of a new threat front represented by Yemen, which did not exist before, whether in terms of the Houthis targeting Israeli naval ships in the Red Sea or launching missiles at Israel itself in retaliation for the Israeli strikes against Iran.

Recent days have witnessed what can be described as a “boxing match” between Israel and the Houthis in Yemen, who depend on Iran’s help and are receiving instructions from Hezbollah. Therefore, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, Aviv Kochavi, warned of an attack coming from Yemen, which prompted the Houthis to respond that it is better for Israel to remain concerned with its own affairs because if it takes military action against them, a war will break out that will harm it.

Although Israel and Yemen are separated by over 2,000 kilometres, the Israelis believe that the Houthis have long-range missiles that could hit the cities of Eilat and Beersheba in southern Israel, and the Israeli ships sailing in the Red Sea and the Bab El-Mandab Strait, and that they use sea mines and small explosive boats that carry out suicide bombings on large ships.

Israeli estimates suggest that Iran will be very comfortable if retaliation against Israel for the assassinations of senior Iranian officials Qasem Soleimani and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh comes from Yemen, although it is also considering attacking it from Iraq. Therefore, it has transferred drones and cruise missiles to its militia bases there. While in Iraq they can work without permission from the Baghdad government, Iran just needs to convince the Houthis in Yemen of the need to attack the Israeli army.

READ: Failure to realise Yemen’s political reality prolongs the conflict and crisis 

The transformation of Yemen into a new arena with Israel means that it will be joining the Iranian “circle of fire” against Israel, especially since the latter has been operating in the Red Sea for years, preventing the smuggling of Iranian weapons and protecting Israeli cargo ships.

Yemeni protesters who are loyal to the Houthi group participate in a rally against the announcement of the diplomatic normalization between Israel and the United Arab Emarite on 22 August 2020 in Sana’a, Yemen. [Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images]

Israeli submarines are operating 1,000 kilometres from Tel Aviv, and it is true that they do not sail underwater in the Gulf, but they operate off the Yemeni coast, and they are on alert. This is especially after Iran’s movements in the region, as it may try to attack them from Yemen or Iraq.

Israel has information that Iran is developing drones and smart missiles in Iraq and Yemen that can reach its soil, but in order to reach the Red Sea, Israeli naval submarines must pass through openly, in coordination with the Egyptians, in the Suez Canal.

The Houthi threat is not limited to Israeli merchant ships, but also makes Yemen a launching pad for ballistic missiles against Israel, which is closely following the war in Yemen, especially the development of Iranian financing and training capabilities. This confirms that there is a fundamental change for Israel, which is that Iran is now seeking to develop precision weapons, i.e. missiles that can hit any target in the Middle East.

READ: US to designate Yemen’s Houthis as terrorist group, says Pompeo 

The Israeli data suggests that while developing its military capabilities, Iran wants to be stationed in Iraq and Syria, and also wants weapons in Yemen to reach Israel as well, so that Yemen joins the vicious circle through which Iran seeks to besiege Israel. This may push it to send various spy tools there to monitor developments closely.

It is no longer a secret that the UAE and Israel are planning to establish joint intelligence bases on the island of Socotra, 350 kilometres from the coast of Yemen, to collect information on maritime transport in the Gulf of Aden, the Horn of Africa and Egypt.

The recent Israeli submarine dispatch to the waters of the Red Sea, and then to the Gulf region, was a source of concern for the Houthis in Yemen, and therefore, they showed a state of security and military preparedness to carry out all types of qualitative operations.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.