December 21, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Defense Minister Warns of Red Sea Threats on Visit to Israeli Navy Near Eilat

December 21, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Defense Minister Warns of Red Sea Threats on Visit to Israeli Navy Near Eilat

Latest Developments

Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visited an Israeli Navy ship on December 20 and discussed recent attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. “The threat to freedom of navigation in the Straits of Bab al-Mandab, two thousand kilometers from the State of Israel, is not only a threat on traffic to Israel, but also to international freedom of navigation in waters belonging to all countries,” Gallant said in a statement.

The defense minister visited Israel’s newest Sa’ar 6-class corvette, which recently arrived off the southern city of Eilat. The vessel is one of Israel’s four new Sa’ar 6-class corvettes, equipped with the naval version of the Iron Dome air defense system. The ship bolsters Israel’s defenses following repeated Houthi missile and drone attacks against Eilat and against commercial shipping in the Red Sea. Israel has used ground-based air defenses to defend Eilat from Houthi attacks over the last two months.

Expert Analysis

“The Houthi threats to shipping must be confronted. The Iranian-backed group has enjoyed impunity to attack ships and threaten Israel since it chose to support Hamas after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. The new U.S.-led maritime force is a step in the right direction to help provide safety for shipping. The next step will require deterring the Houthis from further attacks.” — Seth J. Frantzman, FDD Adjunct Fellow

“Iran is exerting its influence in the Red Sea by employing the Houthis as a means to carry out its objectives. The uptick in attacks occurring in the Red Sea can be seen as part of Iran’s deliberate strategy, aiming to disrupt international trade and put pressure on Israel to force a premature and permanent ceasefire in Gaza. Ultimately, Iran intends to save Hamas, a key member of the so-called ‘Axis of Resistance.’”  Joe Truzman, Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

Gallant Thanked U.S. for Establishing New Task Force for Freedom of Navigation

On December 20, Gallant praised the new multinational naval task force that is supposed to provide safety for commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea. “I would like to thank my friend, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, whom I hosted in Israel a few days ago, for leading, on behalf of the United States, the multinational force tasked with ensuring freedom of navigation for all, in the Strait of Bab al Mandab,” Gallant said. Austin announced the new task force on December 19.

Gallant also said Israel will not “tolerate threats and attempts to attack Eilat.” The Houthis have attacked numerous ships in the Red Sea over the last month and have targeted Eilat with missiles and drones since mid-October. Following Austin’s announcement, the Houthis vowed to continue attacking ships in the Red Sea.

Houthis Continue Threats Despite New U.S.-Led Multilateral Red Sea Operation,” FDD Flash Brief

Arrow 3 Intercepts Houthi Missile over Red Sea,” FDD Flash Brief

New Houthi threats to ships in Red Sea, Eilat,” FDD Flash Brief


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