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Who are the Houthi?


Yemen Houthi rebel group geographical map Dyami

Date: 03/01/2024

Location: Yemen

Who’s involved: Houthi, Israel, Saudi Arabia, United States and Allies, Iran.

What happened?

  • On 07/10/2023, Palestinian terrorist organization, Hamas, attacked Israel and killed over 1200 people. In retaliation, Israel invaded Gaza in an attempt to eradicate Hamas.

  • On 19/10/2023, the Yemen rebel group called the Ansar Allah, more commonly known as the Houthi, started a military campaign against Israel and Israeli interests. Missiles and drones were fired at Israel and merchant vessels were attacked and seized. The Houthi threatened to destroy Israel and its allies: the US and other Western countries.

  • The Houthi movement originated in Yemen in 2003 as a radical Shia rebel group that advocated against the Sunni Yemen government. The Houthi copied the infrastructure of the Shia Lebanese terrorist organization, Hezbollah.

  • When in 2004 the Yemen government killed the leader and founder of the Houthi movement, Hussein Al-Houthi, a full-scale Houthi insurgency erupted against the government.

  • A tense ceasefire was announced in 2010, but the Houthi joined the broader Yemen Revolution against the government in 2011.

  • The Yemen government received military and financial support from Saudi-Arabia and the UAE, while the Houthi received similar support from Iran. Military clashes across the country were followed by a one-sided presidential election and failed government reforms. The conflict turned into a full-scale civil war in 2014.

  • The civil war became a regional conflict when Saudi-Arabia and the UAE sent troops and aircraft to Yemen in support of the government. Iran in the meantime supported the Houthi with weapons and advice.

  • In March 2023, Iran officially retracted its support for the Houthi movement and made a peace-deal with Saudi-Arabia. This did not end the civil war but significantly cooled down the situation.

  • The Houthi control 80% of the country and the two warring sides are in constant talks that so far are leading nowhere.

  • In December 2023 the US and its allies formed a naval deterrence force to deal with the Houthi threat. There have been several incidents in the Red Sea between the US Navy and the Houthi. Missiles, rockets, and drones have been fired at Israel and merchant ships, with all having been intercepted by the US and Israel.


The Houthi rebel movement plays an important role in the Israel-Gaza conflict even though the movement is still struggling with domestic problems, as the civil war in Yemen is far from over. It is likely that the Houthi received a pressing request, if not order, from Iran to join the so-called "Axis of Resistance" against Israel in support of Hamas and Hezbollah. The Houthi are still in debt to Iran and their military strength and tactical intelligence gathering largely depends on what they receive from Iran. The Houthi attacks on merchant vessels have involved the US and its allies in the Red Sea in such a way that they cannot deploy all their assets in support of Israel. And by making the Red Sea a dangerous shipping route, there is pressure coming from the West on Israel to make a ceasefire deal with Hamas in hope that this will entice the Houthi to stop their attacks. This strategy is likely devised by Iran and not by the Houthi themselves. 

The US and allied naval deployment is likely to have some effect on Houthi activities but will not fully stop them from being able to threaten Red Sea shipping routes. This will affect the world economy because it will slow down delivery times for products coming and going from Asia to Europe, especially if the Suez Canal is avoided and ships must sail around South-Africa. It is likely that the Houthi will continue to harass ships and Israel by launching missiles and drones as long as they have the capability to do so. International military responses to the Houthi threat are likely to involve destroying Houthi assets on the ground in Yemen with aerial bombardments.

The radical Islamic ideas of the Houthi movement seem to be of less importance at this time, considering that the group is mainly used as a proxy for Iran to fight its war against Israel. This is keeping the Houthi from fully taking over Yemen and spreading their ideology across the Gulf region. Inviting the US and its allies to start a military campaign against them will likely turn out to be detrimental to the Houthi. If Houthi infrastructure is attacked and its military capabilities are largely neutralized there is a chance that the Yemen government can recover some of its lost territory.


The Houthi will continue to harass Israel and merchant ships in the Red Sea by launching missiles and drones for as long as they have the capability to do so. It is likely that the Houthi are being used as a proxy by Iran against Israel, especially given that they are largely dependent on Iranian military and intelligence support. However, the US and allied naval deployment is likely to have a negative impact on Houthi activities. Considering the crisis created by the Houthi in the Red Sea, the West is likely to increase pressure on Israel to settle a ceasefire deal with Hamas in order to secure global economic interests.

20240108_Who are the Houthi
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