December 10, 2023

The Houthis were a distant threat to Israelis before the October 7 massacre and the subsequent war. Most people had heard of the Iran-backed Houthis but did not pay much attention to them in the context of the ongoing civil war in Yemen. Israel had closer and more immediate threats to worry about with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and the West Bank, and Iran setting up bases for proxies in Syria. However, after the October 7 massacre, the Houthis emerged as a real and immediate threat to Israel. Since the beginning of the war, the Houthis have fired cruise missiles and attack drones toward Israel, which were shot down by the IDF, the US, and according to some reports, even by Saudi Arabia. On Sunday, the Houthis hijacked a cargo ship en route from Turkey to India via the Red Sea. The ship was owned by a British company with an Israeli partner, but there were no Israelis on board. The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement blaming Iran for the hijacking and warning of international consequences. Israel believes that the motivating force behind the hijacking came from Iran, and it holds Iran responsible and expects the rest of the world to do the same. The statement stressed that the hijacking was not just a localized Israeli problem but a threat to free shipping on international waterways, with international consequences. It also called for action, including letting Iran know that it employs proxies to commit acts of terror and placing the Houthis back on the US’s list of foreign terrorist entities. Israel will also eventually need to make the Houthis pay, but at a time and place of its choosing.