Yemen’s Houthi rebels unveil a solid-fuel ‘Palestine’ missile that resembles an Iranian hypersonic missile

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This frame shot from a video released by Yemen’s Houthi rebels’ Ansar Allah Media Office on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, shows the launch of a Palestinian rocket from a rebel-controlled area in Yemen. | Photo credit: AP

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have unveiled a new solid-fuel missile in their arsenal that resembles aspects of a missile previously displayed by Iran, which Tehran described as flying at hypersonic speeds.

The rebels fired their new “Palestine” missile on Monday, complete with a warhead painted like a Palestinian plaid keffiyeh scarf, at Israel’s southern Gulf of Aqaba port of Eilat. The attack set off air raid sirens but caused no reported damage or injuries.

Footage released by the Houthis late Wednesday showed Palestine being lifted onto what appeared to be a mobile launcher and quickly rising into the air with plumes of white smoke billowing from the engine. White smoke is common with solid fuel rockets.

Also read: Who are Yemen’s Houthis? | Explained

Solid fuel rockets can be deployed and fired more quickly than liquid fuel rockets. That is a major concern for the Houthis, as their missile launch sites have been repeatedly targeted by U.S. and allied forces in recent months due to the rebels’ attacks on shipping through the Red Sea corridor. One such attack hit the Houthis before they could launch their missile.

In turn, the Houthis described Palestine as a “locally made” rocket. However, the Houthis are not known to have the ability to locally manufacture complex missile and guidance systems in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, which has been in the grip of war since rebels seized the capital Sanaa nearly a decade ago. seized.

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However, the Houthis have been repeatedly armed by Iran during the war, despite a United Nations arms embargo. Although Iran claims it is not arming the Houthis, ships seized by the US and its allies have found Iranian weapons, rocket fuel and parts on board.

Iranian media reported the Palestine launch and described it as locally produced, citing the Houthis. However, the missile’s design elements resemble other missiles developed by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. This includes one called the Fattah, or “Conqueror” in Farsi.

Iran unveiled the missile last year, claiming it could reach Mach 15 – or 15 times the speed of sound. It also described the missile’s range as up to 1,400 kilometers (870 miles). That’s slightly less than Eilat from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, but the missiles can be reconfigured to increase their range.

In March, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti quoted an anonymous source as claiming that the Houthis had a hypersonic missile.

“While we cannot say with certainty which exact version ‘Palestine’ corresponds to, we can say with great certainty that it is an advanced and precision-guided (Guard)-developed solid propellant rocket supplied by Iran,” wrote Fabian Hinz, a missile expert and research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Asked about the similarity between Palestine and its missiles, Iran’s mission to the United Nations told the Associated Press that Tehran “has not engaged in any activity in violation” of UN resolutions.

“Yemen’s military power has grown since the start of the war… a fact rooted in Ansar Allah’s internal capacity and prowess,” the mission said, using another name for the Houthis.

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Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds greater than Mach 5, could pose critical challenges to missile defense systems due to their speed and maneuverability.

Ballistic missiles fly on a trajectory where anti-missile systems like the US-made Patriot can anticipate and intercept their path. The more irregular the missile’s flight path, such as a hypersonic missile that can change direction, the more difficult it becomes to intercept.

It is believed that China is pursuing the weapons, just like America. Russia claims it has already used them.

It remains unclear how well Palestine maneuvers and at what speed it travels.

Meanwhile, a commercial ship in the southern Red Sea near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait reported seeing explosions nearby on Thursday, although no one was injured, the British Army’s Maritime Trade Operations Center said. The private security company Ambrey also reported the explosions. Although no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, suspicion immediately fell on the Houthis.

The US military’s Central Command said the Houthis fired one ballistic missile into the Red Sea, while America and its allies destroyed nine drones and two drone boats in the past day.

“No injuries or damage were reported from U.S., coalition or commercial vessels,” the report said.

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