Skip to main content

What recent Houthi moves in Red Sea mean for Israel

Houthi assaults against US and UAE vessels should indicate to Israel that control of Red Sea waters might be at stake.
A Houthi follower carries a mock missile as he shouts slogans during a demonstration against the United Nations in Sanaa, Yemen, July 5, 2015. Hundreds of supporters of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels took to the streets of the Yemeni capital on Sunday to protest against the United Nations and its alleged support of Yemen's exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi - RTX1J485
Read in 

In October, Houthi rebels in Yemen fired three times at vessels near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. These incidents are evolving into a strategic threat against Israel and other countries on the strait’s shores. This new situation, which could impact the local and regional economy, will require regional cooperation in order to maintain safe passage through the strait and safeguard maritime commerce.

The first incident took place Oct. 1, when a missile fired by the Houthi rebels in Yemen struck a United Arab Emirates vessel, causing severe damage. The missile was fired from the vicinity of the Red Sea port city of Mokha, slightly to the north of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The location of the incident and the type of missile fired are of utmost importance. The Houthis said that the anti-ship missile was a Chinese-made C-802. This is the same kind of missile fired by Hezbollah at the Israeli navy’s Ahi-Hanit vessel in Lebanese waters in July 2006. The missile caused grave damage and killed several crew members. It’s safe to assume that this time, too, the missile made its way from China to Iran and from Iran to the Houthi rebels backed and trained by the Quds Force of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.