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Houthis Threaten Saudi Arabia: Don’t ‘Disgrace’ Country by Befriending Israel

The leader of the Iran-backed Yemeni terrorist group Ansarallah, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, warned neighboring Saudi Arabia on Thursday that any normalization deal would “disgrace” the country, implying his terrorists would consider the Saudis a legitimate target.

Ansarallah, known commonly as the “Houthis” after the family that runs the organization, has been embroiled in a bloody civil war with the legitimate government of Yemen since 2014. The Saudi government backed the legitimate Yemeni government against the Houthis for years, turning the civil war into a proxy war with Iran. The Houthis responded by directly targeting Saudi territory for years, bombing oil depots and other civilian facilities in the country.

Those attacks largely stopped after peace talks in September 2023. The Houthis have since redirected their ire towards Israel, supporting fellow Iran-backed jihadist organization Hamas’s siege of Israel on October 7 with a war declaration and a campaign of attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea. The Houthis claim they only target ships with ties to Israel and top allies America and Britain, but have routinely attacked ships with no obvious ties to any of those countries and, in some cases, attacked ships associated with allies such as Iran and China.

Al-Houthi expressed disgust with longstanding rumors of a potential normalization in ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel in his weekly address to Yemenis on Thursday. According to al-Khabar al-Yemeni, an Arabic-language site associated with the Houthis, Houthi addressed some of his comments to Muslim-majority Arab nations generally, not just Saudi Arabia – which would include nations that have already normalized relations with Israel such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

“We do not have any hostile intentions towards any Arab country, but we will not accept any Arab regime causing harm to our people in service of Israel and obedience to America,” the Houthi-linked outlet quoted the leader as saying. “Any Saudi position against our people at this time is definitely serving the Israeli enemy and supporting it in obedience to America.”

Al-Houthi reportedly ranted against reports generally that Saudi Arabia would consider normalized ties to Israel at all.

“What drives you to prioritize befriending Israel, turning the tragedy of Gaza into a normalization deal, and then turning hostile against the Yemeni people?” he reportedly asked. “Befriending Israel is not in your interest or the interest of your people, but rather a service that harms you and disgraces you.”

Houthi concluded that his terrorists would “not accept an equation where our people are suffocated and starved, while others harm them and enjoy comfort and prosperity without any harm coming to them,” apparently referencing Saudi Arabia.

Al-Mayadeen, a propaganda outlet affiliated with the Iran-backed Lebanese terrorists Hezbollah, reported that al-Houthi claimed that “some Arab countries” were preparing military drills with Israel, without citing any reference for that news. It also quoted Houthi declaring that the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, a campaign he called “Promised Victory and Holy Jihad,” had been greatly successful and beneficial to the Hamas cause in Gaza.

“He noted that the number of targeted ships has now reached 145, all connected to the Israeli occupation, the United States, and Britain,” al-Mayadeen relayed. “He explained that this escalation is part of the fourth phase and is progressing into more significant stages.”

The claim that all the ships the Houthis have attacked are connected to Israel, America, or Britain is provably false. The Houthis have attacked Chinese-owned ships, ships carrying Russian oil cargo, and ships carrying grain to Iran. The Houthis have attacked several ships previously owned by American or British entities, however, suggesting that they were using outdated information in their targeting.

The warning against Riyadh is the latest such message in a string of similar remarks threatening to rekindle the conflict between the Saudi coalition and the Houthis. In March, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a senior terrorist in the group, reportedly warned in a television appearance that the Yemeni terrorists would attack Saudi Arabia once again if if allowed U.S. forces to use its space to respond to the group’s Red Sea attacks.

“We conveyed a message to Saudi Arabia that it would be a target [for Yemen’s retaliatory strikes] if it allowed the US aircraft to use its territories or airspace in the aggression on Yemen,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi claimed at the time.

In May, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi delivered a similar screed to that of this week, expressing outrage that reports suggested Saudi Arabia would even consider seeking a path to peace with Israel.

“It’s astonishing that some regimes negotiate security agreements with America for protection,” Houthi said, a statement widely interpreted to have been a response to reports that Riyadh was seeking talks with Washington to discuss a security agreement that could open a path to normalization with Israel.

Such a normalization agreement has yet to occur. Shortly before the October 7 Hamas massacre in Israel, Saudi officials suggested that behind-the-scenes talks were being held to further the goal of normalization. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Fox News in an interview in September that he hoped the two countries would “reach a place, that it will ease the life of the Palestinians, get Israel as a player in the Middle East.” The crown prince did not mention the creation of a Palestinian state as a requirement for reaching such a place, which many interpreted as a move forward towards normalization.

Saudi officials lamented following October 7 that Iran, by funding and supporting Hamas, had derailed normalization talks.

“I think before October 7, we were making very, very good progress. It’s hard for me to describe how close we were. It’s something I can’t really quantify,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud told NBC News in February.

“Iran’s behavior is irresponsible. We all know that Iran is a country that sponsors terrorism, and it should have been stopped a long time ago,” an anonymous Saudi official told the Israeli public broadcaster KAN in April, stating Iran “engineered the war in Gaza to destroy the progress in relations” between Saudi Arabia and Israel

A report by Reuters published in May claimed that the Saudi government was negotiating with the administration of President Joe Biden on a deal for normalization with Israel that would include security guarantees and a “civil nuclear component.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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