Houthis’ Unprecedented Support for Hamas and War in Yemen

Three key Houthi leaders put out statements on Thursday discussing Gaza and their widening war in the Red Sea targeting commercial shipping. The Iran-backed Houthis have ramped up attacks in the Red Sea in the last week and say they will target all ships bound for Israel. On Wednesday, December 14, Israel President Isaac Herzog slammed the Houthis. Herzog said, “The Houthis have crossed a red line in the Red Sea.” He also said, “The US-led international activities against the Houthi terror-pirates must be bolstered and strengthened in the form of a truly international coalition.” The Houthis are now going all-in with their own statements. The Houthi, so-called “Field Marshal” Mahdi al-Mashat, who heads their supreme political council, issued a statement that was broadcast by the Houthi’s Al-Masirah network. In addition, another member of the Houthis Political Bureau, Abdul-Malik Al-Ajri, also put out a statement. As if that wasn’t enough messaging, Muhammad Abdel Salam, the head of the Houthi negotiation delegation, which deals with foreign issues, also put out a statement. Salem confirmed that his group is backing a ceasefire in Gaza and humanitarian aid. This kind of policy is new for the Houthis. They began as a Yemen-based movement trying to take over the country. From 2015 to 2022 they fought against the Yemen government. Yemen’s government was backed by Saudi Arabia. Having secured a ceasefire with Riyadh, they seem to be trying to grow their influence around the region. As such, they are using the Iranian model of backing the Palestinians to achieve influence. Most countries in the region don’t care about the Houthis and see them as a small local problem. Now, they are showing they will “ride” the Palestinian issue to expand their role and also give themselves the rights to attack ships in the Red Sea with impunity. Ajri, in his statement, said that the US and other coalition partners will not be able to bring security to the Red Sea. “The only way to restore calm in the Red Sea is linked to the return of calm to Gaza,” he said. He also posted about this issue on X, formerly known as Twitter, discussing the “permanent ceasefire and lifting the siege on Gaza.” The head of the national negotiating delegation, Muhammad Abdel Salam, said that “in light of the operations in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, we are receiving several communications and messages from active countries confirming their support for the ceasefire in Gaza and their commitment to working to bring humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people and that they are against the expansion of the conflict.” The Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Security, Field Marshal Mahdi Al-Mashat, also slammed the “American enemy” and discussed “Yemen’s defense of Palestine and Jerusalem and its support for Gaza,” which he said was as important as “defense of Yemen and the nation.” He discussed escalation against Israel. “He added that the crimes of the American enemy today in Gaza are not new, but rather they are only one point in the record of its heinous crimes against humanity since its inception and appearance,” Al-Masirah reported. This is an important message of discipline for the Houthis. The group’s official slogan is “Death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews,” so their hatred for Israel and the US is not a secret. However, they have not usually acted on it because they were fighting a mostly local war. Iran sought to operationalize them in 2015 to also use Yemen as a test bed for drones and ballistic missiles. The Houthis used these against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. However, its ability to strike Israel has grown. Now, it has targeted Eilat numerous times. Israel has used F-35s and the Arrow system to defend Eilat. The Israel Minister of Defense also showed off photos of the Iron Dome in southern Israel, illustrating that the Iron Dome has also been used in interceptions. The Houthi statements today and widespread coverage of this issue in their media show they are using Gaza as their new rallying cry, and they want to potentially distract from problems at home by showcasing their ability to attack ships in the Red Sea. So far, they have had impunity to do so, which has only made their appetite grow.