The Israeli military said its latest hypersonic ballistic missile interceptor had for the first time Thursday destroyed a “target” headed toward Israel from the Red Sea, highlighting potential attacks from Yemen.
The announcement of the landmark launch of the Arrow 3 interceptor came shortly after Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels said they had fired “a barrage of ballistic missiles” at Israel.
Separately, a drone hit a school in the southern Israeli resort of Eilat, at the tip of the Red Seas, heightening fears in the community as Israel pursues its relentless campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli forces “successfully launched an Arrow 3 interceptor operationally for the first time this evening,” the defence ministry and Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
“The interceptor effectively intercepted a target launched towards Israel in the Red Sea region.”
The statement said it was the “first operational interception” by an Arrow 3, which has been jointly developed with the United States, since its deployment in 2017.
“This achievement follows the recent success of the first operational interception carried out by the Arrow 2 system last week,” the statement added.
The multi-billion dollar Arrow family of missiles were developed because of the perceived threat of attack from Iran.
The hypersonic Arrow 3 moves faster and at a higher altitude than the older Arrow 2.
Israel announced on October 31 that its Arrow system had intercepted a “surface-to-surface missile” headed toward the country.
The Houthis said at the time that they had fired drones and ballistic missiles towards Israel and would “continue to carry out qualitative strikes with missiles and drones” to make Israel halt its campaign against Hamas.
In announcing the latest attacks, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said in a statement: “Our armed forces … launched a barrage of ballistic missiles at various sensitive targets of the Israeli entity… including military targets in the area of Umm al-Rashrash,” — the Arabic name of the town that stood where Eilat now is.
He said the operation was “successful” and claimed “direct hits.”
The Houthis have claimed repeated missile and drone attacks at Israel since the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7 set off the latest Gaza war.
The Yemeni rebels are considered one of a host of possible new war fronts that could erupt during the crisis.
In a separate incident, the Houthis said Wednesday that they shot down an American drone on “espionage activities”.
US officials have confirmed that one of the country’s drones was downed.
Several groups have expressed support for Hamas since their fighters crossed into southern Israel on October 7, killing some 1,400 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.
More than 10,800 people have been killed in retaliatory Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip, the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory says.
One drone hit Eilat on Thursday but no announcement was made on where it came from.
No one was physically hurt in the explosion at an Eilat elementary school but paramedics treated seven people for shock, said an army spokeswoman at the scene.
The school complex was cordoned off by dozens of soldiers and police officers, an AFP reporter saw.