The new Iranian threat: Houthi rocket fire on Eilat?

While Eilat’s remote location has traditionally afforded it protection from the security threats that have plagued the Jewish State, Houthis in Yemen may change that.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

As the ongoing shadow war between Israel and Iran continues to heat up on the heels of stalled nuclear talks in Vienna, there may be a new front for Iranian-backed proxies determined to strike the Jewish State – the Red Sea city of Eilat.

Israel’s southernmost city, the coastal enclave has traditionally been free of the security threats that have plagued the rest of the Jewish State over the years.

During various conflicts, Hezbollah and other terror groups in Lebanon have struck cities in northern Israel, such as the major port city Haifa.

On the southwestern front, Gaza-based terror group Hamas has successfully launched deadly and destructive barrages at Ashkelon and Ashdod (and more recently Tel Aviv).

Eilat’s remote location, some 233 km (144 miles) south of Israel’s largest desert city, Beersheba, has given it a natural barrier from aerial attacks, placing it far out of reach for rockets fired from Lebanon or the Strip.

But as the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen strengthen their foothold in the region and obtain more advanced weaponry, some analysts fear that Eilat could become a target.

Channel 12 News reported last week that British intelligence services determined a UAV attack on the Israeli-owned vessel Mercer Street in the Gulf of Oman, which killed British and Romanian crew members, was launched by Houthi rebels in southern Yemen.

The Islamist rebel group, which similarly to Hezbollah is mostly Shia Muslims, enjoys generous Iranian material and financial support.

According to Channel 12, Israeli intelligence agencies are increasingly concerned about the Houthis leveraging their de facto autonomy in Yemen’s southern peninsula to launch attacks on the Jewish State via the Red Sea or aerial attacks on Eilat.

An unnamed security official told the Hebrew language news agency that the Houthis already possess ballistic missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers, which puts Eilat easily within striking distance.

Beyond an aerial attack, the Houthis could potentially disrupt global supply chains by targeting Egypt’s Suez Canal.

They could also target Israeli ships traveling through the Red Sea, causing major economic damage by disrupting routes to the Jewish State’s major trading partner, India.

In response to the threat, the Israeli navy has reportedly stepped up its monitoring and intelligence activities in the Red Sea.

The question that remains unanswered is if and when Israel will decide that the threat posed by the Houthis requires a preemptive strike.