Has Yemen declared war on Israel and who are the Houthis?

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Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center said the few Houthi attacks for now are “more about messaging than a real military threat.”

Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman (right) meets with a delegation from the Houthi movement in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in September this year.Credit: AP

“The risk to Israel would be if there were an all-out battle, with multiple missile launches from all directions that could overwhelm its air defenses,” he said.

Who are the Houthis? The Houthi movement, also known as Ansar Allah (Followers of God), emerged in the 1990s out of dissatisfaction with the Yemeni government’s alignment with Saudi Arabia and the US. It has positioned itself as an anti-imperialist group against foreign intervention and as a force for the economic development of the Yemeni people.

The group’s slogan is: “God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory for Islam,” which it claims is not literal but reflects its opposition to interference by those symbolizes countries.

The country was arrested in the early 2000s over concerns about its growing influence and responded with uprisings that embarrassed the Yemeni and Saudi armies.

The group is rooted in Zaydism, a sect of Shia Islam that makes up about 25 percent of Yemen’s population; the rest of the country is predominantly Sunni.

Houthi supporters in Yemen's capital Sanaa burn an American flag in September 2021 during a rally marking the seventh anniversary of the Houthis' takeover of the capital.

Houthi supporters in Yemen’s capital Sanaa burn an American flag in September 2021 during a rally marking the seventh anniversary of the Houthis’ takeover of the capital.Credit: AP

Are Houthis Aligned with Hamas? The group joins the Iranian Axis of Resistance, an informal military coalition focused on anti-Western and anti-Israel intentions. Other participants include the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah; Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups; the Syrian government; and militant groups in Iraq.

The Houthis first hinted at a link with Hamas in 2021 when they proposed exchanging Saudi prisoners they were holding for the release of Palestinians. Hamas later presented the Houthi leadership with a “shield of honor” in recognition of its support for the Palestinians.

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