The Israeli military announced Tuesday that it has foiled an aircraft attack by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, raising concerns across the region that the Israel-Hamas conflict could escalate.
Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, a spokesperson for the Houthi forces, said Al-Masirah TV that ballistic missiles and drones had been launched against Israeli targets in the third operation in support of the Palestinian people.
He went on to say that further strikes were planned until the “Israeli aggression” stopped.
“Our armed forces launched a large batch of ballistic and winged missiles and a large number of drones at various targets of the Israeli enemy,” he said, referring to all of Israel’s “occupied territories.”
The Houthis are a Shia political and military movement in Yemen that has been fighting a civil war against a Saudi-backed coalition. They have expressed solidarity with the Palestinians and organized rallies in Yemen in response to Israel’s offensive in Gaza.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stated in a statement that it had successfully intercepted a surface-to-surface missile fired from the Red Sea region using its Arrow aerial defense system for the first time.
The employment of the Arrow defense system, which is designed to intercept high-altitude missiles, suggests that the Houthis sought to launch a more advanced, long-range missile.
Israeli jets also intercepted “aerial threats” in the vicinity, according to the IDF. According to the IDF, all threats were detected outside of Israeli land.
The attempted attacks on Israel represent an escalation by the Iran-backed Houthis, as regional rivalries flare up despite the United States’ efforts to contain a potential Middle Eastern conflict.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian warned on Tuesday that there was a “expansion of conflicts in the region” and that resistance group members would “not remain silent against America’s full support” for Israel and “will not wait for anyone’s advice.”
According to a readout from Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he added, “We need to use the last political opportunities to stop the war, and if the situation gets out of control, no side will be safe from its consequences.”
The Houthi attacks on Tuesday come two weeks after another failed effort. On October 19, a US warship near Yemen’s coast fired down four cruise missiles and 15 drones over the course of nine hours as they traveled north along the Red Sea.
The missiles were fired by Iranian-backed Houthi troops in Yemen, according to Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, and were sent “potentially toward targets in Israel.” Interceptions of Houthi launches by the US are extremely unusual.
Despite decades of punitive US-inspired sanctions, Iran has continued to give training and weapons to Yemen’s Houthis, Syria’s Assad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Gaza’s Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Since the start of the war, Hezbollah, another prominent Shia organization, and Israel have been fighting on the Israel-Lebanon border on a daily basis. The US sent two carrier groups to the eastern Mediterranean in October to dissuade Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah from opening new fronts against Israel.
Since the new Gaza war erupted in response to Hamas’s lethal October 7 onslaught, US outposts in Iraq and Syria have also been targeted on a periodic basis.