The country of Yemen declared war on Israel on Oct. 31, 2023, claiming responsibility for drones and missiles launched at Israeli targets.
Yemen’s government has not declared war on Israel (as of this writing), though Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for attempted drone and missile attacks. Israel said it thwarted “aerial threats” but has not said who it believes was behind them. There has been no independent verification of the Houthi's claims.
In late October and early November 2023, online posts claimed Yemen had declared war against Israel amidst the latter's ongoing conflict with Hamas, making Yemen the first sovereign state to enter the war.
Yemen declared war on Israel. pic.twitter.com/LH1CVCkEvw
— Jesvin George🇮🇳🇮🇱 (@Jesvintalks) November 1, 2023
One post on X claimed that someone it described as a "Yemeni Armed Forces' spokesperson," Yahya Saree, said Yemen vowed “to continue its attacks on Israel with missiles and drones until the aggression on Gaza stops.” In reality, Saree is a spokesperson for the Houthi rebels, a militia group that has declared itself to be the state of Yemen and been fighting the internationally recognized Yemen government since 2014.
Yemeni Armed Forces' spokesman Yahya Saree:
Yemen vows to continue its attacks on Israel with missiles and drones until the aggression on Gaza stops. pic.twitter.com/6seB2k9fyv
— The Cradle (@TheCradleMedia) October 31, 2023
The claim that Yemen had declared war on Israel was spread by British politicians like Paul Golding, a leader of Britain First, a far-right political party.
While Saree did indeed declare the continuation of a Houthi military operation targeting Israel, he does not speak for Yemen’s internationally recognized government. The Houthi rebels are a militia group that began as a religious revival movement of a Shia sect that once ruled Yemen but is now in conflict with the Yemeni government. We thus rated this claim as "False," given that the internationally recognized government of Yemen did not make such a declaration.
The Houthi rebels claimed on Oct. 31, 2023, that they had sent a number of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as drones, toward Israeli targets. That same day, the Israeli military said it had intercepted a surface-to-surface missile approaching the country “from the area of the Red Sea” and documented a number of other aerial threats that did not enter Israel.
The rebels, who have long been accused by Saudi Arabia of receiving support and funding from Iran, have described themselves as the “state of Yemen.” An unverified X account in Saree's name attributed the attacks to the “Yemeni armed forces.”
The Yemen government is officially the Presidential Leadership Council under Chairman Rashad Muhammad al-Alimi, since the president transferred his powers to the council in April 2022. The council is tasked with negotiating a permanent ceasefire with the Houthis within Yemen and finding a resolution to the fighting. The Houthi rebels seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014 and established control over much of the country's northern area since, while the internationally recognized government is based in Aden, in the south.
As of this writing, Saudi Arabia, which supports the Yemeni government in the south, has been holding talks with the Houthis in an attempt to exit the war. The Houthis see themselves as part of a so-called "Axis of Resistance" — reportedly backed by Iran — which encompasses Shia Muslim factions in Iraq and Lebanon's Hezbollah group. However, they have denied being an Iran proxy in the region.
Even though the Houthis declared responsibility for the attacks on Israel on Oct. 31, 2023, Israel itself has not said who it believes is responsible, as of this writing. The New York Times noted it could not independently verify the Houthi’s claims. Days earlier, Israel did, however, accuse the Houthis of sending drones to attack Israeli targets, though the drones ended up causing explosions in two Egyptian towns on the Red Sea.
Saree stated the Oct. 31, 2023, incident was the third operation targeting Israel and the Houthis threatened to carry out more strikes “until the Israeli aggression stops.”
The Houthi declaration generated speculation about Iran’s involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict, even though Iranian officials have publicly stated they were not behind Hamas’ attacks on Israel in early October.
In a statement to The Associated Press, the Iranian mission to the United Nations did warn of escalating violence from militias like the Houthis should the deaths of civilians in Gaza at the hands of Israelis continue.
Al-Shamahi, Abubakr. “As Saudi Arabia and Houthis Talk, Yemen’s Government Is Sidelined.” Al Jazeera, Mar. 14, 2023. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/3/14/has-yemen-government-been-sidelined-after-saudi-iran-deal. Accessed 1 Nov. 2023.
Dahan, Maha El, and Maha El Dahan. “Who Are Yemen’s Houthis and Why Did They Attack Israel?” Reuters, 1 Nov. 2023. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/who-are-yemens-houthis-why-did-they-attack-israel-2023-11-01/. Accessed 1 Nov. 2023.
Ibrahim, Nur. “Did Iran Say It Will Hit Israel with Missile Strikes from Lebanon, Yemen and Iran If Attacked?” Snopes, 10 Oct. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/iran-missile-strikes-on-israel-if-attacked/. Accessed 1 Nov. 2023.
Nereim, Vivian, and Saeed Al-Batati. “Yemen’s Houthi Militia Claims to Have Launched an Attack on Israel.” The New York Times, 31 Oct. 2023. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/31/world/middleeast/yemen-houthi-militia-israel.html. Accessed 1 Nov. 2023.
“Yemen Country Profile.” BBC News, 28 Aug. 2011. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-14704852. Accessed 1 Nov. 2023.
“Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Claim Attacks on Israel, Drawing Their Main Sponsor Iran Closer to Hamas War.” ABC News, Oct. 31, 2023. https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/yemens-houthi-rebels-claim-attacks-israel-drawing-main-104514030. Accessed 1 Nov. 2023.
“Yemen’s Houthis Say They Launched Ballistic Missiles, Drones at Israel.” Al Jazeera, Oct. 31, 2023. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/10/31/israel-says-it-shot-down-aerial-target-near-red-sea-city-of-eilat. Accessed 1 Nov. 2023.
“Yemen’s Houthis Say They Launched Missiles, Drones at Israel.” Reuters, 31 Oct. 2023. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-warns-possible-hostile-aircraft-near-red-sea-city-eilat-2023-10-31/. Accessed 1 Nov. 2023.
“Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Claim Attacks on Israel, Drawing Their Main Sponsor Iran Closer to Hamas War.” AP News, 31 Oct. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/israel-palestinians-hamas-war-yemen-houthis-iran-34eab8bc1d3cf3606d874166fef2f018. Accessed 1 Nov. 2023.