On 19 October 2023, the U.S. Navy warship USS Carney shot down three land-attack cruise missiles and several drones heading toward Israel launched by the Houthis in Yemen. This was the first action by the U.S. military to defend Israel since the outbreak of the war.[4] It was later reported that the ship shot down four cruise missiles and 15 drones.[8] Another missile was reportedly intercepted by Saudi Arabia.[9]

On 27 October 2023, two drones were fired in a northerly direction from the southern Red Sea. According to IDF officials, their target was Israel, but they did not cross the border from Egypt. Of the two drones, one fell short and hit a building adjacent to a hospital in Taba, Egypt, injuring six; the other was shot down near an electricity plant close to the town of Nuweiba, Egypt.[10][11][12] A Houthi official later made a one-word post on Twitter after the drone crashed in Taba, mentioning the nearby Israeli town of "Eilat".[13]

On 31 October, an alert was triggered in Eilat, Eilot and the Shahorit industrial park area regarding the penetration of hostile aircraft from the Red Sea. The aircraft was successfully intercepted over the Red Sea. The Arrow system intercepted a ballistic missile and the Air Force intercepted several cruise missiles fired from the Red Sea towards Eilat. The Houthis took responsibility for the launches.[14] One cruise missile was shot down by an F-35i Adir jet.[15] The downing of the missile by the Arrow marks the first time it has been used in the Israel–Hamas war.[16]

On 1 November at 0:45, the IDF intercepted an air threat fired from Yemen and identified south of Eilat.[17]

A U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down off the coast of Yemen by Houthi air defences on 8 November; the Pentagon previously claimed MQ-9 drones were flying over Gaza in an intelligence gathering role to aid in the hostage recovery efforts.[18]

On 9 November, the Houthis fired a missile towards the city of Eilat.[19] The missile was intercepted by an "Arrow 3" missile, marking the first time it was used in an interception.[20]

On 14 November, the Houthis fired numerous missiles, one of which was aimed towards the city of Eilat. The missile was intercepted by an Arrow missile.[21]

The following day, the USS Thomas Hudner shot down a drone that was headed towards it.[22]

Why won't Israel take a more aggressive measure against the Houthis in Yemen? It seems that Israel is just shooting down missiles and drones while not attacking the Houthis in Yemen. Is there a reason for this? I am thinking that attacking terrorists in Yemen would constitute perhaps a war against Yemen itself even if the government of Yemen is against the Houthis. Did Israel give an official reason for not attacking the Houthis for their involvement in the Israel-Hamas war?

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    My assumption is simply that Israel are prioritising Hamas right now. Rather than fight on two fronts, they're concentrating on what they believe to be the bigger threat, and they'll deal with the Houthis later.
    – F1Krazy
    Nov 19, 2023 at 19:31
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    +1 but you're probably mistaken if you think they care much about what the official gov't of Yemen would say. They might care more what Saudi Arabia would say, with whom they were trying to get to a normalization. Nov 19, 2023 at 19:49
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    Yemen is far away from Israel, no common border also adds some complexities.
    – dEmigOd
    Nov 19, 2023 at 20:26
  • As continue to @F1Krazy Israel is busy enough bot in the south from Gaza and Lebanon in the north. And while it seems they don't do much, all targeted missiles were intercepted by the IDF.
    – USerNAme
    Nov 19, 2023 at 21:42
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    If the air defense systems are sufficient to neutralize the threat, why bother? Just to produce more victims and be criticized for attacking yet another country? Israel is small a lot more sensitive to such criticism than US - if they went to Gaza, it is because they have no other choice. Nov 20, 2023 at 12:47

3 Answers 3


Why won't Israel take a more aggressive measure against the Houthis in Yemen? It seems that Israel is just shooting down missiles and drones while not attacking the Houthis in Yemen. Is there a reason for this? I am thinking that attacking terrorists in Yemen would constitute perhaps a war against Yemen itself even if the government of Yemen is against the Houthis. Did Israel give an official reason for not attacking the Houthis for their involvement in the Israel-Hamas war?

Israel looks at a war with Hamas as a war it can easily win, and also hopefully establish some sort of long term solution to a constant existential problem. This holds true as long as Israel is at war with only Hamas. A general war, involving Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran, becomes a pain for them to deal with, and instead of an easy win with a potential for a long term solution, there's a chance Israel loses outright.

In addition, even a limited strike back will result in civilian casualties, violate foreign airspace, etc. And Israel's long term strategy is very simple to understand: get the Saudis (and others, but mostly the Saudis) onside by leveraging fear of Iran. Recently, the UAE and Bahrain (and also Morocco) normalized relations with Israel, which was a huge win for them. But Israel needs peace with Palestine to do so, as Arab Nations can't be seen as betraying Palestine.

So in short, Israel doesn't want the war to expand. So they don't expand the war. Nor do they talk about expanding the war, lest it encourage more attacks.

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    I'm not the DV, but: neighbors seem more scared of Israel than it does of them -- Hezbollah has been making excuses why it didn't want to get involved. Israel has always also been casual about violating airspace, and apparently has already bombed some Syrian airports in the recent violence. And Netanyahu in the interview with Steve Inskeep on NPR said he had no plans for Gaza after killing Hamas. No new leadership, no plans for Israel to occupy it again -- in other words, they don't even know what "winning" against Gaza looks like. Nov 20, 2023 at 3:16
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    @OwenReynolds: "Netanyahu replied: “There will be no civil authority that educates its children to hate Israel or kill Israelis. There cannot be an authority that pays money to the families of murderers. There cannot be an authority whose leader has still not condemned the massacre. There will need to be something else — but in any case, with our security control.”" 972mag.com/netanyahu-war-palestinian-state Nov 20, 2023 at 6:10
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    @theresawalrus, Israel can't "win" a war against Hamas in Gaza. Israel occupied Gaza for decades and never pacified it. They ended up withdrawing unilaterally. Hamas is not an existential threat to Israel, they are an annoyance. Israel's actions in Gaza are punitive to get them to behave. It's unlikely Israel will commit to a long term occupation and even if they did it's unlikely to be any more successful than their last multi decades long occupation of that area.
    – JMS
    Nov 20, 2023 at 12:05
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    @JMS, Do I have to mention how many times the Palestinians have been offered a state in exchange for peace, and they declined it? There is no person on earth, bearing the authority to sign a document in the name of the Palestinian people, who is willing to denounce the killing of Jewish babies. There has never been. No indication that there will ever be.
    – Jacob3
    Nov 20, 2023 at 16:35
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    @JMS They absolutely were offered viable options. They've been offered over 10 proposals, with a wide range of deals, and have denied them all. They haven't offered their own peace deals. The only solution that seems palatable for the Palestinians is the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of all of the Jews. Hamas calls for the destruction of all Jews and Christians. I wouldn't call that a viable option.
    – David S
    Nov 21, 2023 at 18:57


Why won't Israel take a more aggressive measure against the Houthis in Yemen?

Short Answer:

They don't want to provoke Saudi Arabia. If Israel can ignore the Houthis, they will. If Houthis causes Israeli casualties or hits something big, Israel will hit them back, regardless of Saudi. Even then though Israel's options in responding are limited. If Israel responds though, one can be certain they will chose something that hurts.

This could be it.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels hijack an Israeli-linked ship in the Red Sea and take 25 crew members hostage


Any such response would require traversing Saudi controlled and monitored airspace and thus risk offending / provoking Saudi Arabia. Until very recently Israel and Saudi Arabia were discussing diplomatic recognition and trade for the first time in Israel's history. Such a deal would potentially be a very important relationship for Israel and very lucrative trade partner. These talks are on hold due to the actions of Hamas and Israel's response, but Israel is probable hopeful they could resume after the troubles. So as long as Houthis missiles can be intercepted by the Iron Dome Israel might choose to keep ignoring them as the lesser of two evils.

If the Houthis hit Israel and cause casualties it's likely Israel would get more aggressive with them, regardless of the Saudi's. Likely respond with missiles, drone attacks or perhaps a bombing mission. Invading and potentially occupying Yemen in order to pacify the Houthis is off the table. So no Gaza style boots on the ground invasion, and thus Israel is once again left with the punitive response rather than a lasting solution. Israel had a fighter strike against Iraq in the 80's to keep them from manufacturing a nuclear bomb. They've more recently used drone attacks against Iran. Israel also has formattable missiles capable of targeting Yemen accurately. Beyond these options Israel's capabilities are rather limited. Because Yemen is geographically removed from Israel, Israel's ability to directly invade or even keep up an extended air presence over Yemen is extremely limited, even with Saudi cooperation. Saudi's have cooperated with Israel in the past on such raids, but not recently, and that cooperation could likely not be counted on here. If Israel decides they must respond, they will regardless of the Saudi's.

The IDF is essentially a defense force without the kind of logistical infrastructure to project power geographically removed from their boarders beyond raids(air or ground), missiles, or drone attacks. Iran has pretty much the same problem which is why Iran uses proxies with pre-staged weapons. Most countries in the world cannot project air and ground forces extended from their own boarders in any meaningful way. There are really only 3 countries who can fight such wars on any scale (to project power). The United States, France and the UK. Maybe China, but that's still unclear and untested.

Still the Israeli IDF is a world class defense force, and their commanders are extremely creative. So an antagonist can't be confident Israel wouldn't have other options. Whatever they are they won't include a prolonged Gaza style invasion of Yemen. Israel will pick a response more favorable to their own abilities. It will be geared to punish.

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    Could an Israeli attack on the Houthis also be seen as an intervention in support of the Saudis? After all, Saudi Arabia opposes the Houthis in the Yemeni civil war.
    – xyldke
    Nov 20, 2023 at 12:43
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    @xyldke, Saudi Arabia certainly wouldn't and isn't protecting the Houthis. Saudi has waged their own very bloody war in Yemen against Iranian proxies complete with civilian casualties. If such an arrangement as you suggest would be acceptable Israel likely would have responded already to the Houthis provocations. The fact Israel hasn't responded is a reflection the Saudi's aren't on board and thus wouldn't find an Israeli response acceptable. Little risk of Saudi responding in any way other than Diplomatic. A further set back to normalization with Israel would be the concern.
    – JMS
    Nov 20, 2023 at 12:59
  • @xyldke, There is one school of thought that the casus belli for Hamas was the imminent Israeli Saudi normalization. That normalization would have been hard enough for Saudi, but now after Israel has incurred such global criticism for actions in Gaza I think it would be much harder for them. Still it's not out of the question for Saudi to agree to such a strike and then passively condemn Israel for it in the press. You would know this was the case (1) if Israel does respond. (2) then a Saudi tempered reaction. No attack, it means the Saudi's aren't on board.
    – JMS
    Nov 20, 2023 at 13:12
  • @xyldke, Saudi Arabia's position in the Arab World and Islamic world are very important to the kingdom and the ruling family. Saudi could not publicly been seen as siding with Israel in these current troubles. Even when Saudi Arabia has cooperated with Israel in the passed, during more peaceful times, Saudi has done so covertly. Sometimes diplomatically objecting passively to raides over their territory which Saudi had agreed to. So I don't think their is much of a chance of Saudi inviting Israel to help them out with their mutual Houthis problem.
    – JMS
    Jan 3 at 15:49
  1. They currently have an operation in Gaza. On top of that, there is an ongoing low intensity conflict on the northern border with Hezbollah. It can go hot at any moment if one of the parties give a casus belly to the other one, thus resulting in a larger scale conflit requiring many more men than the numbers they have in Gaza.

  2. Houthis are just sending missiles at Israel from a long distance. They can easily be detected and intercepted. Besides that, with the proximity of their enemies and the threat of long range strike from Iran, Israel as a good expertise in air defense systems.

  3. Yemen has been at war for a while with saudis arabia. Even if the later has a modern army, they have been quite sucessfull at pushing them back. For Israel, it means that retaliating require a complexe plan (are there AA system, potential logistic, boots on the ground ?). And they don't share a common border with Yemen, meaning they don't face a territorial threat.

Conclusion: when your army is currently mobilised by a military operation and must face a potential larger scale conflict from north, it's not worth bothering with some guys throwing missiles at you as you are in fact pretty good at shooting them.

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