Yemen's Houthis penetrate Israel's missile defences in Eilat for first time

Yemen's Houthis penetrate Israel's missile defences in Eilat for first time
For the first time since the Houthis effectively declared war on Israel, one of their missiles has hit Israeli territory, the Israeli military has admitted.
2 min read
20 March, 2024
The Houthis have an array of ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel in their arsenal [Getty]

The Israeli military admitted on Tuesday that Yemen’s Houthis penetrated their missile defence system for the first time, with a missile landing north of Eilat on Sunday night.

Although the Israeli military did not specifically name the Houthis, the missile was confirmed as coming from the direction of the Red Sea.

The Houthis, who rule north Yemen, including the capital Sanaa, also claimed responsibility for the missile attack, with spokesman Yahya Saree saying the Iran-aligned group had targeted southern Israel with missile fire.

The missile did not cause any damage or injury, but questions remain as to how the projectile made its way through Israeli defences.

The Houthis have attempted to strike Israel with ballistic missiles since the beginning of its war on Gaza last October, yet this marks the first time one has actually hit Israeli territory.

Until now, all Houthi missiles have been shot down by Israel’s Arrow 1 or 3 missile defence systems.

The projectile, alleged by the Israeli military to have been a cruise missile, could have conceivably caused major damage if it hit a populated or industrial area.

One possibility as to why it evaded Israel’s defences is that because of the "line-drive" trajectory at which cruise missiles fly, Israeli missile defence operators may have been caught by surprise, according to The Jerusalem Post.

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Along with firing missiles at Israel, the Houthis have also attempted to enforce a blockade on the country by attacking Israeli vessels or ships that belong to Israel’s Western allies in the Red Sea.

The Houthis justify such action as an act of solidarity with Palestinians amid Israel's war on Gaza, yet the group has been accused of rights abuses at home.

The Houthi blockade has had major ramifications on global trade, leading to US and UK-led military intervention against the group, attacking targets deep into the territory they control in Yemen.

Despite this, the capacity of the Houthis to attack vessels in the Red Sea has seemingly not diminished, with Saree also announcing on Tuesday that the group targeted the Marshall Islands-flagged fuel tanker MADO in the Red Sea with naval missiles.

The blockade has also had a significant impact within Israel, with an announcement on Wednesday that half the workers at Eilat Port are set to lose their jobs due to Houthi attacks in the Red Sea with an 85 percent drop in activity recorded in December.