Yahya Sarea

General Yahya Sarea is the military spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi rebels, a.k.a. Ansar Allah.“Yemeni Armed Forces: “Compact Structure” Campaign Liberated an Area of 2500 Sq. Kilometers, Killed, Injured or Arrested Thousands of Mercenaries (Video),” Al Manar, February 2, 2020, https://english.almanar.com.lb/930910; “Yemeni Houthis say they fired missile at Saudi Aramco site in Jeddah,” Reuters, November 22, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-saudi-aramco-saudi/yemens-houthis-say-attacked-saudi-aramco-facility-in-jeddah-with-rocket-tweet-idUSKBN28308L. The Houthis have waged a series of bloody insurgencies against the Yemeni government since 2004, overthrowing them and seizing power in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa in 2015.Ahmed al-Haj, “Yemen Shiite Rebels Harden Their Protest Demands,” Associated Press, August 25, 2014, https://wtop.com/news/2014/08/yemen-shiite-rebels-harden-their-protest-demands/; Rod Nordland, “Rebels in Yemen Say They Intend to Form a New Government,” New York Times, February 6, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/07/world/middleeast/yemen-rebels-say-they-will-dissolve-parliament.html?_r=1.

In February 2015, the Iran-backed Houthis took control of Sanaa and expelled the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, drawing protest from the U.N. Security Council.“Yemen’s Houthis Form Own Government in Sanaa,” Al Jazeera, February 6, 2015, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2015/02/yemen-houthi-rebels-announce-presidential-council-150206122736448.html. Hadi fled to Aden and rescinded his resignation.Mohammed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashaf, “Yemen’s Hadi Flees to Aden and Says He Is Still President,” Reuters, February 21, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/21/us-yemen-security-idUSKBN0LP08F20150221. The internationally recognized Yemeni government has since operated from Aden.“Government outraged as Yemen rebels make TV boss ‘ambassador’ to Iran,” National (Abu Dhabi), last updated March 1, 2020, https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/mena/government-outraged-as-yemen-rebels-make-tv-boss-ambassador-to-iran-1.899666. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched Operation Decisive Storm in an effort to quash the Houthi coup and reinstate the government of ousted Yemeni President Hadi.“Saudi ‘Decisive Storm’ waged to save Yemen,” Al Arabiya, March 25, 2015, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2015/03/26/GCC-states-to-repel-Houthi-aggression-in-Yemen-statement-.html; Nick Thompson and Inez Torre, “Yemen: Who’s joining Saudi Arabia's fight against the Houthis?,” CNN, March 30, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/27/world/yemen-saudi-coalition-map/.

Sarea began posting on Twitter in November 2018 as the Houthis’ military spokesman and has since claimed credit for and defended numerous Houthi drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia.Yahya Sarea, Twitter account, accessed January 15, 2021, https://twitter.com/army21ye. Sarea has threatened new attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and any other country participating in the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis.“Houthis threaten to strike ‘sensitive’ sites in Saudi Arabia, UAE,” Xinhua, December 30, 2019, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-12/30/c_138665230.htm. Sarea has also accused the United States of supporting the Arab coalition and arming the Houthis’ enemies.“Saudi Royal Palaces Will Be among Targets of Yemeni Strikes: General Sarea laces,” Al Manar, July 7, 2020, https://english.almanar.com.lb/1082325. He has promised that Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia will continue.“Yemeni Houthis say they fired missile at Saudi Aramco site in Jeddah,” Reuters, November 22, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-saudi-aramco-saudi/yemens-houthis-say-attacked-saudi-aramco-facility-in-jeddah-with-rocket-tweet-idUSKBN28308L.

Throughout 2021, Sarea continued to claim responsibility for Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia while threatening the Houthis were “prepared to carry out stronger and harsher military attacks in the coming period.”Reuters, Raya Jalabi, Lisa Barrington, and Raya Jalabi, “Yemen’s Houthis warn of stronger attacks after drone strikes on Saudi Arabia,” Reuters, March 25, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/saudi-led-coalition-says-it-destroys-several-houthi-drones-launched-kingdom-2021-03-25/; “Yemen’s Houthis say they attacked Saudi Aramco facilities; no Saudi confirmation,” Reuters, April 12, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/yemens-houthis-say-attacked-saudi-aramco-refineries-jeddah-jubail-no-saudi-2021-04-12/; “Saudis intercept Houthi missile and drones aimed at oil region,” Reuters, September 5, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/saudi-led-coalition-foils-missile-attack-oil-region-tv-2021-09-04/. On January 17, 2022, a Houthi drone killed at least three and wounded six others in the UAE. The Houthis claimed the attacks were in response to the “escalation of the US-Saudi-Emirati aggression.”“Charbel Mallo and Celine Alkhaldi, “3 killed in suspected Houthi drone attack in Abu Dhabi,” CNN, January 17, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/17/middleeast/uae-abu-dhabi-explosion-drone-houthi-intl/index.html; Rory Jones, “Houthis Attack U.A.E. Again in Threat to Business and Tourism Hub,” Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-a-e-intercepts-two-ballistic-missiles-over-capital-as-gulf-tensions-escalate-11643007328. On January 24, the Houthis launched drones toward Dubai and ballistic missiles toward Abu Dhabi. Sarea called on foreign companies and investors to leave the UAE because “it has become unsafe.” He also claimed the Houthis were ready to “meet escalation with escalation.”Alexander Cornwell and Alaa Swilam, “UAE blocks missiles as Yemen’s Houthis attack region’s business hub,” Reuters, January 24, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/uaes-defense-ministry-destroyed-2-houthi-ballistic-missiles-wam-2022-01-24/.

Despite Sarea’s threats, on April 1, 2022, the Houthis and the Saudi-led military agreed to a U.N.-brokered two-month truce. The parties agreed to halt all offensive military air, ground, and maritime operations inside Yemen and across its borders in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The truce took effect on April 2.Mostafa Salem and Lianne Kolirin, “Saudi-led coalition and Houthis agree on truce in Yemen, raising hopes for the 'start of a better future',” CNN, April 1, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/01/middleeast/yemen-truce-un-intl/index.html; Saeed Al-Batati, “Yemen troops battle new Houthi attacks near Marib,” Arab News, April 9, 2022, https://www.arabnews.com/node/2059456/middle-east. However, on April 13, Yemeni military spokesman Abdo Majali claimed the Houthis committed 1,230 violations of the truce in the Marib, Taiz, Hajjah, Dhale, and Saada provinces. Majali also accused the Houthis of bringing in reinforcements, as well as an additional 40 military vehicles, to the battlefront in Southern Marib.Saeed Al-Batati, “Yemen troops battle new Houthi attacks near Marib,” Arab News, April 9, 2022, https://www.arabnews.com/node/2059456/middle-east; “Houthis Accused of Committing 1,230 Truce Violations on Various Fronts in Yemen,” Asharq Al-Awsat, April 13, 2022, https://english.aawsat.com/home/article/3588806/houthis-accused-committing-1230-truce-violations-various-fronts-yemen.

On April 9, 2022, Twitter suspended an account belonging to Sarea for breaching its rules. The social media platform stated it prohibits content “glorifying” acts of violence, including “attacks carried out by terrorist organizations or violent extremist groups.” Sarea’s account, which had been in operation since 2018, reportedly had more than 340,000 followers and was used by Sarea to claim responsibility for the rebels’ attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia as well as any other country participating in the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis. Although Twitter suspended Sarea’s main account, an English-language account in Sarea’s name remains active and has 17,000 followers. Additionally, several new Arabic accounts allegedly belonging to Sarea have also been discovered.“Twitter suspends Houthi military spokesman's account,” The National, April 10, 2022, https://www.thenationalnews.com/gulf-news/2022/04/10/twitter-suspends-houthi-military-spokesmans-account/.

On October 7, 2023, Iran-backed Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing at least 1,200 people. Israel subsequently launched airstrikes and a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.Lauren Frayer, “Israel revises down its death toll from the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks to about 1,200,” NPR, November 11, 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/11/11/1212458974/israel-revises-death-toll-hamas-attacks-oct-7; Ibrahim Dahman and Abeer Salman, “Hamas announces ‘Al-Aqsa Storm,’ claims to have fired 5,000 rockets,” CNN, October 7, 2023, https://www.cnn.com/middleeast/live-news/al-aqsa-storm-militants-infiltrate-israel-after-gaza-rockets-10-07-intl-hnk/h_644aa5e5d02286051f5cc307e229566a. The Houthis joined other Iranian proxies in targeting Israel and U.S. interests in the region.“Iran’s allies in Iraq, Yemen threaten U.S. over intervention in Israel,” Reuters, October 10, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/senior-iraqi-political-figure-threatens-target-us-interests-if-it-backs-israel-2023-10-10/. Sarea called the attacks a response to “Israeli aggression” and part of the Houthis’ support for the Palestinian people.Jessie Yeung, Hamdi Alkhshali, and Kyle Blaine, “Israel says it thwarted aerial attacks by Yemen’s Houthis near Red Sea,” CNN, November 1, 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/11/01/middleeast/israel-says-it-thwarted-attacks-from-yemens-houthis-intl-hnk/index.html; “Yemen’s Houthis say they launched missiles, drones at Israel,” Reuters, October 31, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-warns-possible-hostile-aircraft-near-red-sea-city-eilat-2023-10-31/. On November 30, Sarea wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that the Houthis would continue to block Israeli ships in the Red Sea and stop only when Israel ends its war with Hamas in Gaza.Yahya Sarea, Twitter post, November 30, 2023, 3:45 p.m., https://twitter.com/Yahya_Saree/status/1730327318336258133. Following a December 3 Houthi attack on at least two shipping vessels in the Red Sea, Sarea renewed the Houthi warning that “all Israeli ships or those associated with Israelis” were legitimate targets.Jon Gambrell, “3 commercial ships hit by missiles in Houthi attack in Red Sea, US warship downs 3 drones,” Associated Press, last updated December 4, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/red-sea-houthi-yemen-ships-attack-israel-hamas-war-gaza-strip-716770f0a780160e9abed98d3c48fbde.

The Houthis continued their attacks on Red Sea shipping lanes into 2024. On February 18, the Houthis fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles at the Belize-flagged and British-owned bulk carrier MV Rubymar in the Red Sea, forcing the crew to abandon ship after one of the missiles struck the vessel. Sarea issued a statement claiming the Houthis fired “a number of missiles” at the vessel, causing severe damage and bringing the ship to a “complete halt” while leaving it “at risk of sinking.”“‘The attack on the ship appeared to be one of the Houthis’ most damaging.,” New York Times, February 20, 2024, https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/19/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news/houthi-ship-crew-rubymar. Sarea warned that the Houthis “will not hesitate to take more military measures” against “all hostile targets in defense of beloved Yemen and in confirmation of the position of support for the Palestinian people.”“‘The attack on the ship appeared to be one of the Houthis’ most damaging.,” New York Times, February 20, 2024, https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/19/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news/houthi-ship-crew-rubymar. The damage to the Rubymar caused it to completely sank on March 2, making it the first ship to sink from a Houthi attack.Mohammad Ghobari, “Ship sunk by Houthis threatens Red Sea environment, Yemen government and US military say,” Reuters, March 2, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/freighter-rubymar-has-sunk-red-sea-yemen-internationally-recognised-government-2024-03-02/; Eleanor Watson, “Ship sunk by Houthis likely responsible for damaging 3 telecommunications cables under Red Sea,” CBS News, March 6, 2024, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/houthis-ship-cutting-red-sea-telecommunications-cables/. After the Houthis launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles toward the Liberian-flagged, Singapore-owned container ship Pinocchio in the Red Sea on March 11, Sarea claimed the Houthis struck the vessel, which he described as “American.”“Houthi missiles fired at ship in Red Sea, U.S. military says,” Reuters, March 11, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/yemens-houthis-target-us-ship-pinocchio-red-sea-2024-03-12/; “U.S. Central Command,” Twitter post, March 11, 2024, 10:32 p.m., https://twitter.com/CENTCOM/status/1767378223237562494. There were no reported injuries or damage from the attack. Afterward, Sarea pledged that the Houthis would increase their operations in the Red Sea during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on March 11.“Houthi missiles fired at ship in Red Sea, U.S. military says,” Reuters, March 11, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/yemens-houthis-target-us-ship-pinocchio-red-sea-2024-03-12/.

Through May and June 2024, Sarea made multiple announcements about the Houthis increasing their attacks on U.S. and Israeli interests. On May 6, Sarea announced on X that the Houthis would expand their attacks in the Red Sea and other international shipping lanes to target any ship they believe is connected to a company supplying Israel. Sarea warned that the Houthis would block any such ships from traversing the Red Sea if Israel went ahead with a plan to invade Rafah in the Gaza strip. Heather Mongilio, “Houthis Threaten to Expand Range of Targets in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden,” USNI News, May 6, 2024, https://news.usni.org/2024/05/06/houthis-threaten-to-expand-range-of-targets-in-the-red-sea-gulf-of-aden; Patrick Wintour, “US gives Saudis green light to try to revive peace deal with Houthis,” Guardian (London), May 14, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/article/2024/may/14/us-saudi-arabia-revive-peace-deal-with-houthis-yemen. On June 1, Sarea claimed that the Houthis launched six operations targeting a U.S. aircraft carrier, a U.S. destroyer, and three vessels in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. According to Sarea, the Houthis launched missiles and drones toward the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower north of the Red Sea. Sarea said the Houthis also targeted the Abliani in the Red Sea, the Aloraiq in the Indian Ocean, and twice attacked the Maina in the Red Sea and in the Arabian Sea.“Yemen’s Houthis say they conducted six operations in Red Sea and Indian Ocean,” Reuters, June 1, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/yemens-houthis-say-they-conducted-six-operations-red-sea-indian-ocean-2024-06-01/. He followed that announcement with a June 6 televised speech, Sarea claims the Houthis launched two joint military operations with the Iraqi Islamic Resistance against ships at Israel’s Haifa port. Sarea claimed the first attack targeted two ships carrying military equipment in the port of Haifa. The second targeted a ship that violated the Houthis’ ban on entering the port. According to Israeli media, however, there were no reports to corroborate the Houthi claims.Reuters and Times of Israel Staff, “Houthis claim without evidence to target ships at Haifa port,” June 6, 2024, https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/houthis-claim-without-evidence-to-target-ships-at-haifa-port/; “Yemen’s Houthis say they launched two operations against ships at Israel’s Haifa port,” Reuters, June 6, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/yemens-houthis-say-they-launched-two-operations-against-ships-israels-haifa-port-2024-06-06/.

Also Known As

Extremist entity
Type(s) of Organization:
Insurgent, religious, social services provider, territory-controlling, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Arab nationalist, jihadist, Islamist, Shiite, Zaidi
Military spokesman

The Houthis are an Iranian-backed, Shiite Muslim armed religious and political movement in Yemen. The Houthis waged a series of bloody insurgencies against the Yemeni government for over a decade, leading to that regime’s overthrow in 2015.

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On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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