Who are the Houthi rebels who are attacking ships sailing to Israel?

, 14:27, 14.01.2024
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Yemen's Houthi rebels, controlling a quarter of the country, have engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by attacking ships bound for Israel. Aligned with Iran and modeled after Hezbollah.

Who are the Houthi rebels who are attacking ships sailing to Israel?

Houthi rebels

Yemen's Houthi rebels, controlling a quarter of Yemen's territory, have inserted themselves into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by attacking ships bound for Israel. Despite ten years of devastating civil war in Yemen, the Iran-allied group still plays a significant role in the Middle East.

Who are the Houthi rebels?

The Houthi rebels, also known as Ansar Allah (Arabic for followers of God), are an armed group currently controlling a quarter of Yemen's territory, including the capital, Sanaa, and home to half of the country's population. The Houthi movement is associated with the smallest group within Shiite Islam, the Zaidis. In the early 1990s, the movement, led by Hussein al-Houthi, emerged partly in resistance to the growing influence of Sunni fundamentalists in the north and partly against perceived corruption in the government of then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Houthis have modeled themselves on Hezbollah, a Lebanese political and military organization. According to the American research institute Combating Terrorism Center, Hezbollah has been providing training to the Houthis since 2014, preparing them for combat.

The rebels' primary ally is Iran, with whom the Houthis share a common adversary - Saudi Arabia. There are suspicions that Tehran is supplying weapons to the rebels, and the United States alleges that Iranian intelligence is assisting them in their campaign against merchant ships.

The rebels attacked ships in the Red Sea as a show of support for Hamas during the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Houthi rebels, aligning themselves with Hamas, declared their intent to target any ship heading towards Israel. They intercepted an Israeli cargo ship in November and continued their attacks using drones and ballistic missiles on several other merchant vessels from November to December 2023.

The frequency of rebel attacks significantly increased during this period, prompting major companies to cease shipping activities in the region due to the heightened threat.

Civil war in Yemen

The Houthi movement faced military campaigns, including from Saudi Arabia, and gained strength over the years. The civil war in Yemen escalated in late 2014 when the Houthis occupied Sanaa. A Western-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in 2015, aiming to counter Iran's influence. The conflict has resulted in a devastating humanitarian crisis, with millions suffering from hunger, disease, and casualties.

Israel's war with Hamas

Now, after the attack carried out by Hamas in early October 2023, the situation is completely different. We have to take into account various dangerous consequences.

Israel can abolish the hard-won status of the autonomous Gaza Strip and can accept the accusation that it is taking actions that are very similar to Russia's attack on Ukraine (with the difference that the Ukrainians have not committed any provocation). It may be necessary to engage some significant peacekeeping force in the Gaza Strip.

Then the situation from the late period of the Vietnam War will probably return in the sphere of public and academic discussions. There will be debate on whether just wars exist, whether atrocities by highly motivated soldiers become inevitable in situations of grave threat, when political deception becomes treason, how to prevent allies of the threatened side from using nuclear weapons or other massive retaliation


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