Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebel group claimed responsibility for missile and drone attacks targeting Israel on Tuesday, indicating a wider regional crisis is imminent.
Since the Gaza-based Hamas terror group launched its heinous October 7 assault against the Jewish state, the rebels have supported its “resistance.” A spokesman for the group announced that the Houthis’ aerial barrage was launched “out of a sense of religious, moral, humanitarian and national responsibility for the people of Gaza, in the face of the weakness of the Arab world, and the collusion of some Arab countries with Israel.”
Israel’s fighter jets shot down the drones, and the rockets launched toward Eilat were intercepted by the Arrow air defense system. Earlier this month, the USS Carney intercepted a separate barrage carried out by the Houthis.
Introducing the Arrow System
Intercepting a Houthi-launched surface-to-surface missile launched from the Red Sea, marked the long-range Arrow air defense system’s first use in the war so far. However, the Arrow has been used before. In 2017, the system shot down a Syrian surface-to-air missile intended to hit Israeli aircraft. Now that the Arrow has successfully intercepted a higher-quality threat, the Israel Defense Forces can rely on it more heavily.
The Arrow is the top tier of the IDF’s air defense apparatus. Israel’s Iron Dome effectively intercepts large quantities of lower-quality, short-range rockets, thus answering the capabilities of Hamas and Lebanon-based Hezbollah. David’s Sling is the mid-tier defense system and can shoot down a variety of projectiles, as explained by The Jerusalem Post. The formidable system was designed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to intercept ballistic targets. It includes Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 hypersonic anti-ballistic missiles, in addition to the Elta EL/M Green Pine and Golden Citron early warning radars.
IAI praised the IDF for successfully using the Arrow to intercept the Houthi-launched weapon:
“The Arrow is an advanced air defense system created and designed to intercept ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere,” IAI said, Breaking Defense reported. “The Arrow system […] demonstrated today that Israel possesses the most advanced technology for defense against ballistic missiles at various ranges,” IAI CEO Boaz Levy said.
Iran Proxies Fueling Broader Conflict
The Islamic Republic of Iran has threatened that Israel will face wider threats if it does not cease its Gaza operation. As the primary source of funding, support, and training for Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthi rebels, Tehran is undoubtedly using these proxies to do its dirty work against its sworn enemy. In fact, the Houthi’s group mantra is “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam.”
Since 2014, the Iran-backed group has embroiled Yemen in civil conflict. Houthi militants seized control of Yemen’s northern Sana’a province and forced the removal of its government. The conflict then metastasized into a larger and more deadly war.
Although Tehran’s interest in Yemen dates back many decades, the Islamic Republic’s involvement in the country took hold in the mid-2000s. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps exploited a widening power vacuum caused by domestic turmoil in Yemen to grow its influence. Iran’s regime has taken advantage of similar circumstances to exert control in Lebanon and Gaza as well.
Like Hamas and Hezbollah, the Houthis receive training, funds and support from Tehran. Following the takeover of Sana’a in 2014, Iran’s contributions to these Yemen-based militants grew steadily to include the transfer of weapons. As detailed by War on the Rocks, “They assemble these parts into working weapons with technical assistance from Hezbollah and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps advisers. This approach has allowed the Houthis to now field short and long-range drones and an increasingly diversified fleet of missiles capable of striking deep inside Saudi Arabia.”
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.
From the Vault