Recent Houthi Attacks on Saudi Arabia, Additional motives


Mon, 06-09-2021 09:03 PM, Aden

Analytics (South24)

Yesterday, Sunday, the Saudi Ministry of Defense announced that its air defenses had intercepted 3 ballistic missiles and 3 drones, launched by the Houthi group towards the Eastern Province, Jizan and Najran.

According to the ministry, one of the missiles injured 2 children and damaged a number of houses in the Dammam suburb of the Eastern Province, while the other 2 missiles were destroyed without any damage, and the drones were shot down. (1)

The Houthi group, which controls most of North Yemen, announced through their military spokesperson that it had bombed the Saudi Aramco oil facility with 10 drones and 6 ballistic missiles. (2)

The group's official spokesman and head of its negotiating delegation, Mohammad Abdusalam, threatened larger and broader attacks, blessing what he called "deterrence operations" in the Saudi depth. (3)

The Houthi attacks were widely condemned by the US, UK, France, and many Arab and Islamic countries and organizations with Riyadh stressing that it would do "whatever is necessary" to maintain its security. (4)

Over the past period, the Houthis have repeatedly attempted to attack Saudi territories almost continuously with drones and ballistic missiles, but the recent attack, which hit civilian targets, as Saudi Arabia announced, and economic targets, as the group claims, raises many questions.

The attack represented a serious military escalation by the Houthis, as it does not appear to come within the framework of the group’s regular attacks. It was preceded by a similar attack on Abha international airport, which, according to Saudi Arabia, damaged a civilian plane and injured 8 workers, earlier this month. (5)

As a preliminary response to the Abha airport attack, Saudi planes bombed with dozens of raids Houthi forces sites in Marib and Saada, and the group's media reported more than 25 raids hours after the attack. (6)


The desire to prove power pushes the Houthis to launch their external attacks targeting Saudi Arabia, while the desire for psychological warfare and inflicting precise losses pushes the group to strike its internal opponents, taking advantage of the difference in armaments in the field of missiles and drones.

This Houthi military intent is what drives its attacks constantly, but many of these attacks are characterized by a higher level of violence and the weapons used, reinforced by other additional reasons on the ground.

The most important motives and reasons that likely reinforced the Iranian-backed Houthi’s desire to target the Kingdom can be summarized to:

- Air strikes in Marib

For months, the Houthi group has launched a comprehensive, multi-front attack on Marib, the last stronghold of the Yemeni government in North Yemen, and one of the oil-rich provinces.

The group managed to achieve some victories on the fronts bordering Sanaa, but it failed to overthrow the governorate center and many areas, amid the desperation of the tribes and government forces, and the effectiveness of the Saudi air strikes.

Saudi Arabia launched hundreds of raids that reined the rulers of Sanaa, on the fronts of Sirwah, al-Kasara, al-Rahba, and other flaming fronts in Marib; Riyadh announced that many of the strikes had been achieved, with its goals of destroying Houthi military vehicles and vehicles, and killing members of the group.

The Kingdom’s strikes clearly and in detail affected the course of the battles in Marib, and worked to bring about a kind of military balance on the ground, as it provides air coverage for government forces that lack offensive systems similar to those of the Houthis.

- The killing of Mohammad Hussein al-Houthi

Al-Houthi’s killing may be one of the most important reasons that reinforced the Houthis’ desire to respond to the raids, given the importance of the group’s field leaders - especially those who hail from the Houthi family in Saada - on the fronts, and the defeat and psychological defeat that their killing may cause among its fighters.

Saudi media quoted Yemeni military sources as saying that the prominent field leader of the Houthi group, Mohammad Hussein al-Houthi, was killed in an air strike in Marib, on Friday.

According to Al-Arabiya channel, this leader is close to the leader of the Houthis, Abdul-Malik Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and from the same area in Saada governorate, from which the first rank of the group's leaders hail. (7)

- The arrest of the general

In conjunction with the killing of Mohammad Hussein al-Houthi, Yemeni government media, and Saudi channels, reported the news of the arrest of the Houthi leader and intellectual reference, Hassan Ali Yahya al-Emad, by the security forces in the Mahra governorate, on the border with Oman, while he was returning from Iran disguised through the land port in the Shahn area. (8)

Al-Emad is considered one of the most important Houthi religious references. He lives and is married in Tehran, Iran. He was sent to study in the Iranian “Qom” in the 90s with a number of his brothers. His importance emerged through the role he played in favor of the Houthis in Iran by collecting donations for the group and promoting its projects in the Iranian media. (9)

So far, no official statement has been issued by the Yemeni government about the arrest of General al-Emad, or his denial, but leaders and officials in this government confirmed, through their personal accounts and televised interviews, the arrest. (10)

It is important to note that all these events coincide with the start of the Swedish diplomat Hans Grundberg's mission as the 4th UN envoy to Yemen (11), which raised the possibility of the Houthis' attempt to send messages confirming their strong position in the war and their determination to obtain new concessions from local opponents and from Saudi Arabia in exchange for a ceasefire agreement, in the next stage.

The group’s attacks on Saudi Arabia were not the only ones recently. It also launched the deadliest attack in South Yemen since the bombing of Aden international airport late last year, against the Al-Anad military base in Lahj governorate, on August 29, that left 40 Southern forces martyred, and dozens wounded.

The Houthis did not officially claim responsibility for the attack or deny their involvement in it, but the Yemeni government and the STC directly accused the group of being behind the attack, which was carried out with missiles fired from the Al-Hawban area under the control of the group, in Taiz Governorate, in North Yemen. 

Journalist and reporter at South24 Center for News and Studies

Photo: FILE - Saudi-led coalition officials show to U.S. Central Command chief General Kenneth McKenzie an exibit of weapons and missiles that is used by Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh.

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