Yemen’s Houthi group, a powerful militant organization, has been launching long-range missile attacks on southern Israel since the start of the conflict between Israel and Hamas on October 7. Israel, with the assistance of a US Navy destroyer, successfully intercepted two of the largest attacks on October 19 and 31.
If these attacks continue, which is likely as the Gaza conflict persists, Israel may need to deploy its advanced Sa’ar 6-class corvettes in the Red Sea to counter the various air and maritime threats posed by the Houthis.
Recently, the Israeli military announced that it had intercepted a long-range ballistic missile and two cruise missiles fired by the Houthi group from the southern Red Sea. The Arrow ballistic missile defense system, a key component of Israel’s multi-layered air defenses, successfully intercepted the ballistic missile while Israeli fighter jets took down the cruise missiles.
The Houthi group claimed responsibility for the attack, citing it as a response to the ongoing Gaza conflict. However, the Israeli Defense Forces stated that all the missiles were intercepted before reaching Israeli territory.
This attack came shortly after a US Navy destroyer intercepted missiles and drones launched from Yemen towards Israel on October 19. The USS Carney, operating in the Red Sea, intercepted four cruise missiles and 15 drones, which US officials confirmed were intended for Israel.
These incidents highlight the potential threat to Israel’s southern region, especially the city of Eilat on the Red Sea coast near Jordan. This threat was recognized even before these attacks occurred. In December 2020, the Israel Defense Forces warned of Iran’s support in developing long-range drones and missiles for its proxies in Iraq and Yemen, posing a threat to Israel.
As a precaution, Israel deployed Iron Dome and MIM-104 Patriot ground air defense systems in Eilat. Additionally, Israel has introduced the Sa’ar 6-class corvettes, equipped with advanced Israeli sensors, anti-ship missiles, and air defense systems. These ships are primarily meant to protect Israel’s exclusive economic zone, including natural gas platforms in the eastern Mediterranean, and could potentially play a role in defending against threats in the Red Sea.
If the Houthis continue to pose a threat, Israel might need to provide naval escort for its merchant ships in the Red Sea, ensuring the security of this strategic sea corridor.
Bryan Clark, an expert in naval operations, suggests that while the corvettes have impressive capabilities, they may not be ideal for countering Houthi long-range threats from the sea. Instead, these ships could be more effective against asymmetric threats like suicide boats.
In summary, the Houthi attacks have raised concerns about Israel’s southern security, prompting considerations of deploying naval assets to protect its interests in the Red Sea.