Timeline of Attacks: Israel versus the Houthis

The Houthis, a Yemeni militia backed by Iran, launched a campaign against Israel shortly after the Gaza war erupted on Oct. 7, 2023. During the first six months of the conflict, they fired missiles and drones at least 10 times in the direction of Eilat, the strategic Israeli port on the Red Sea that is roughly 1,000 miles from Sanaa. Only one cruise missile hit Israel, although it did no damage. The Houthis, a religious revival movement among Zaydi Shiites, have repeatedly vowed to continue attacks until the Gaza war ends in solidarity with Hamas.

“The Houthis will not hesitate to expand their military operations against the Israeli entity to include targets that they do not expect on land or at sea,” Houthi spokesperson Yahya Saree said in November 2023. The rhetoric has intensified as the Israeli campaign made military gains in Gaza. The Houthis pledged to escalate unless the “siege” of the Palestinians ended.

But the campaign—eight launches in 2023—diminished to a single monthly launch in January and February 2024.  Only one cruise missile hit Israeli territory. Other weapons were reportedly shot down by Israeli aerial defense systems or fell short. U.S. and French warships in the Red Sea also downed some of the Houthi missiles and drones headed toward Israel. Saudi Arabian air defenses also reportedly intercepted two missiles. Israel did not appear to counterstrike the Houthis.

The Houthis have espoused anti-Israeli and anti-American views since the movement emerged in the 1990s. Their slogan is “God is great. Death to the U.S. Death to Israel. Curse the Jews. Victory for Islam.” Known as Ansar Allah (or Supporters of God), the Houthis are a minority in Yemen.

Abdel Malek al Houthi

Iran provided the Houthis with light arms, rockets and anti-aircraft missiles, which were originally used to fight the Saudi-backed government in Yemen in six wars between 2004 and 2010. The Houthis seized control of Sanaa, the capital, in 2014, forcing the central government into exile in Saudi Arabia. Tehran provided increasingly advanced cruise and ballistic missiles and drones capable of reaching Israel after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates opened an air war in 2015.

The campaign against Israel was part of a wider Houthi campaign during the first six months of the Gaza war that included dozens of strikes on commercial shipping and naval warships, including U.S. Navy ships, in the Red Sea. The Houthis initially claimed that they were targeting commercial ships on their way to or linked to Israel to show solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, although the attacks hit vessels from several nations.

The Houthis offensive overlapped with attacks by other militias in the so-called “Axis of Resistance,” a network of militias in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen fostered and armed by Iran. “We are in a multi-front war,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in December 2023. “We are being attacked from seven different arenas.” 

The Houthi threat from the south was small compared to the more than 4,000 attacks by Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border. The following are attacks by the Houthis on Israel during the first six months of the Gaza war.

Oct. 19, 2023: The Houthis fired cruise missiles and several drones potentially headed toward Israel. The USS Carney intercepted four missiles and 15 drones over the Red Sea.

Oct. 27, 2023: The Houthis launched two drones toward Israel. One hit a building next to a hospital in the Egyptian town of Taba near the border with Israel in the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt's military downed a second drone before it entered its airspace. The debris fell near the town of Nuweiba.  

Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2023:  The Houthis launched ballistic missiles and drones toward Israel. Israel intercepted multiple incoming projectiles. An Arrow 2 battery intercepted a surface-to-surface missile for the first time. 

Nov. 9, 2023: The Houthis launched a surface-to-surface ballistic missile aimed at Eilat. It was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow defense system over the Red Sea. Another “suspicious target” was intercepted by a Patriot battery. 

Nov. 14, 2023: The Houthis fired a surface-to-surface missile toward Eilat, but Israel intercepted it over the Red Sea with the Arrow system.

Nov. 22, 2023: The Houthis fired a cruise missile over the Red Sea toward Eilat. It was intercepted by Israel.

Dec. 6, 2023: The Houthis launched a ballistic missile toward Eilat. It was intercepted by Israel's Arrow defense system. 

Dec. 26, 2023: The Houthis fired drones toward Israel. Israel intercepted one projectile over the Red Sea by Israeli aircraft. U.S. forces shot down 12 drones, two land attack cruise missiles and three antiship ballistic missiles. 

Feb. 2, 2024: The Houthis launched a surface-to-surface ballistic missile at the southern port city of Eilat. It was intercepted by Israel‘s Arrow aerial defense system over the Red Sea.

March 18, 2024: The Houthis fired a cruise missile that landed outside Eilat. It was the first time the Houthis struck Israeli territory.

March 21, 2024: Israel intercepted a suspicious aerial target near Eilat that came from the direction of the Red Sea. 

April 8, 2024: A hostile aircraft approached Eilat from the south. Israel's C-Dome, a ship-mounted defense system, downed the target. The system had not previously been used in combat. 

April 13-14: The Houthis reportedly launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel from al Jawf and al Baydha Governorates in central and eastern Yemen. At the same time, Iran launched an unprecedented attack on Israel with 185 suicide drones, 110 ballistic missiles and 36 cruise missiles. Iran's militia allies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq also fired munitions at Israel. The swarm of assaults were retaliation for Israel’s airstrike, on April 1, on an Iranian diplomatic mission in Damascus that killed three Revolutionary Guards generals as well as other military officials.

Some of the information in this article was originally published on April 11, 2024.