Missiles of Houthi forces during a military parade in Sanaa, Yemen, on September 21. Photo: AFP

Houthi launched a series of missiles and UAVs into Israel to support Hamas, not for military purposes, but mainly to serve the group’s political calculations.

After the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, a number of armed groups spoke out in support of the Islamic movement in the Gaza Strip. However, in addition to the Hezbollah force in Lebanon, a long-time ally of Hamas, only the Houthi force in Yemen has shown support through military action.

On October 19, the Pentagon announced that its destroyer in the Red Sea shot down three missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) launched from Yemen aimed at Israel.

On October 31, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced the successful interception of a surface-to-surface missile flying from the Red Sea area aimed at the city of Eliat in the south of the country. Israeli fighter jets that morning also shot down a number of suicide UAVs flying over this sea.

Houthi, an Islamic armed group that controls a large area in Yemen, later confirmed that it had launched a large number of missiles and UAVs against Israel, adding that this was not the first time this force had attacked Tel Aviv and at the same time The warning will continue until the enemy “stops aggression” in the Gaza Strip.

A day later, Houthi announced a new round of UAV raids on many Israeli targets. It is unclear what Tel Aviv’s damage was after the attack, but the IDF had previously sent missile ships to the Red Sea to strengthen defenses in the area against the increasing threat from Yemen.

According to Zoran Kusovac, a veteran analyst for Al Jazeera, Houthi’s consecutive missile and UAV raids targeting Israel have not brought many military results.

“Their missiles don’t have much of a chance to hit anything. Israel is located more than 2,000 km from Yemen, and this is the maximum limit for the longest-range missiles that the Houthis possess,” Kusovac commented… “Furthermore, their missiles must also overcome US warships patrolling the area, as well as Israeli destroyers recently dispatched to the Red Sea.”

This expert believes that the Houthi’s main purpose in the missile attacks is not to cause material damage to Israel but to deliver a “political blow” to Saudi Arabia, the Houthi’s opponent in the ongoing civil war, out in Yemen.

The Yemeni civil war broke out in late 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi forces captured the capital, Sanaa, forcing President Mansour Hadi and many officials to flee to Saudi Arabia. The international coalition led by Riyadh then launched a campaign against the Houthis to restore Mr. Hadi’s internationally recognized government.

The Houthis currently control much of the north and major population centers in Yemen, while the Saudi-backed government is headquartered in the southern port city of Aden. There have been many major battles between the two factions in recent years, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

The conflict in Yemen has calmed down for more than a year thanks to peace talks efforts led by the United Nations, but the conflict between the Houthi forces and the government supported by Saudi Arabia is still smoldering.

Saudi Arabia recently sought to restore relations with Israel after decades of confrontation, but this plan was interrupted after the conflict in the Gaza Strip escalated. Reuters sources said Saudi Arabia, as the leader of the Arab bloc in the Middle East, decided to postpone negotiations with Israel to show support for the Palestinian people.

The reason why Houthis continuously launch missiles at Israel

Houthi security forces in Sanaa, Yemen in December 2021. Photo: Reuters

The US is trying to urge Israel and Saudi Arabia to continue the process of normalizing relations despite the conflict in Gaza. In that context, the Houthis stepping up missile attacks on Israel could be an act of “adding fuel to the fire” of the conflict, making it difficult for the plan to normalize relations between Riyadh and Tel Aviv to become a reality, according to Mr. Kusovac.

In addition to undermining Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy, the Houthis’ move also aims to attract more support domestically by showing people that this group is the only force in Yemen that dares to challenge Israel, the country that is considered an “enemy” by the Arab bloc.

“In this way, the Houthi force will surpass other factions in the country, attracting more support from Yemenis,” said Mahad Darar, an expert at Colorado State University in the US. “This is also a way for the Houthis to show their own stance in the region, completely separate from Arab countries that have not reacted strongly to Israel, including Saudi Arabia.”

Onur Sultan, a researcher at Beyond the Horizon ISSG, based in Brussels, said Yemenis’ trust in the Houthis has recently declined because of poor governance, widespread corruption and the crisis. Economy in areas controlled by the group. Therefore, the conflict in the Gaza Strip is an opportunity for the Houthis to direct public attention away from internal problems and increase support.

Also, according to Sultan, the Houthis are part of the “resistance axis” led by Iran in the Middle East to deal with Israel, alongside Hezbollah, Hamas and Shiite Muslim militia organizations in Iraq and Syria. Launching missiles against Tel Aviv is also a way for the Houthis to assert their role in the “axis of resistance,” especially after Hezbollah took the opening military action.

“By their attacks, the Houthis have confirmed themselves as part of the axis and proven themselves to be a ‘competent’ group,” this expert said.

Since its inception, the Houthi force has had an operating principle of opposing Israel and the West. Therefore, this group can hardly miss the opportunity to attack Tel Aviv when the enemy has to deploy troops to deal with many fronts.

However, Darar expert believes that Houthi attacks are not only difficult to threaten Israel but can also unintentionally bring benefits to this country if it causes the US to take harsher action against Iran.

“Houthi attacks can make the US think that Israel is facing a war on many fronts backed by Iran,” he said. “This helps strengthen the views of hard-line US officials, forcing the US to take a more drastic stance on Iran.”