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Yemen rebels, Hamas discuss 'expanding confrontations' with Israel — Houthi source

By AFP - Mar 17,2024 - Last updated at Mar 17,2024

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories — Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels discussed "expanding confrontations and encircling" Israel in a meeting in Lebanon with Hamas and other Palestinian factions, a Houthi official told AFP on Saturday.

Houthi attacks on Red Sea ships since the start of the Hamas-Israel war have disrupted global trade, actions the rebels say are in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Representatives from Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine met last week with the Houthis in Beirut, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Palestinian sources on Friday told AFP that the meeting had taken place, with one of the saying the representatives discussed "mechanisms to coordinate their actions of resistance" for the "next stage" of the war in Gaza, now in its sixth month.

Another Palestinian source, also requesting anonymity to share details of the meeting, told AFP that those present discussed the "complementary role of Ansar Allah [the Houthis] alongside Palestinian factions, especially in the event of an Israeli offensive on Rafah".

 Most of the Gaza Strip’s 2.4 million people have sought refuge in Rafah, on the coastal territory’s southern border with Egypt, the last major urban area spared an Israeli ground offensive.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Friday he had approved the military’s plan for a ground operation in the city, without providing a timeline.

The Houthis, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are all part of the Iran-backed “axis of resistance”, an alliance of groups hostile to Israel and the United States that also includes Lebanese Hizbollah and armed groups in Iraq.

In a speech Thursday, Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al Houthi threatened to expand the group’s attacks to target ships avoiding the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden by sailing south around Africa.

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