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21 Mar, 2024 17:32

Houthis hit Israel for first time

The Israeli military has failed to intercept a cruise missile fired by the militants at the port of Eilat
Houthis hit Israel for first time

Yemen’s Houthi militants have struck Israel with a cruise missile, marking the first time that one of the group’s projectiles has reached the Jewish state. The strike follows repeated efforts by the US and UK to destroy Houthi launch sites.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed on Tuesday evening that it tracked a “suspicious aerial target” that entered Israeli airspace and struck an open area near the Red Sea port city of Eilat. 

The IDF then confirmed that the target in question was a cruise missile, and that no casualties or damage occurred. The Houthis later claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Houthis have launched repeated missile and drone attacks on Israel since October. Until Monday, all of the group’s missiles and aircraft had been intercepted en route to their targets either by the IDF, the American or British navies, or the forces of neighboring countries like Jordan. 

The Shia militia, which functions as the de facto armed forces of Yemen, has also vowed to disrupt commercial shipping in the Red Sea until Israel ceases its war with Hamas. Houthi militants have carried out scores of attacks on commercial shipping in the region, including a successful missile strike on an allegedly American-owned liquefied petroleum gas tanker on Tuesday.

From the outset of its campaign, the group said that it would target Israeli or “Israel-linked” shipping, including vessels owned or operated by American or British firms.

The US and Britain responded by deploying naval forces to the region and launching repeated waves of airstrikes against Houthi launch sites and other military facilities in Yemen. The most recent of these strikes took place on Monday, when US Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, said that its forces destroyed missiles, drones, and “weapons storage containers” on Yemeni soil.

In a much larger series of strikes in late February, American and British warplanes destroyed 18 Houthi targets across eight locations in Yemen, including underground bunkers, radar sites, and surface-to-air missile batteries, according to the British Defense Ministry.

These operations have failed to deter the militants, however. Back in January, US President Joe Biden conceded that while the air campaign was not “stopping the Houthis,” it would continue regardless.

Houthi attacks caused a 50% decline in shipping traffic through the Suez Canal in January and February, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported earlier this month. While most Western vessels are now forced to take the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, the Houthis have told Russia and China that their ships will be allowed to pass through the Red Sea unimpeded in exchange for unspecified “political support,” Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

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