Iran has recently sent its Houthi allies in Yemen unmanned aircraft loaded with explosives known as “suicide drones," which can reach and operate against a variety of targets including Israel, American outlet Newsweek reported.
An expert who "follows Iranian activities in the region” told Newsweek that Houthi soldiers deployed the explosive drones - known as Iranian Shahed-136 - in the northern Yemeni province of Al-Jawf.
The province is under the control of Ansar Allah, a Shiite Houthi rebel movement sponsored by Iran that is fighting against the Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen.
According to the expert, the Shahed-136 has a range of up to 2,200 km (1,367 miles).
It was most likely deployed in Yemen so that a drone attack against U.S., Saudi, Gulf, or Israeli targets would be traced back to the rebels, giving Iran plausible deniability against any kind of retribution.
"The Iranians have delivered to their Houthi proxies in Yemen advanced UAVs," the expert told Newsweek. "They are forward deploying or prepositioning these drones in order to stage an attack against a variety of targets they have within range."
He added: "What they're trying to achieve is plausible deniability... as in being able to strike either a U.S., Saudi, Gulf, or Israeli target and then having the strike traced back to Yemen, and hoping for deniably against any kind of retribution."
In September 2019, several oil facilities in Saudi Arabia were attacked using suicide drones and cruise missiles in an operation attributed to Iran.
U.S. officials offered satellite images of the damage at the heart of the kingdom's crucial Abqaiq oil processing plant and a key oil field, alleging the pattern of destruction suggested the attack came from either Iraq or Iran - rather than Yemen, as claimed by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
Iran for its part called the U.S. allegations "maximum lies."
Such drones were also used to instigate a major terrorist attack against the Yemeni government in the city of Aden some two weeks ago.
The devastating attack left 26 people dead and 50 wounded.
Israel's defense establishment recently warned of possible Iranian retaliation for the death of top general Qasem Soleimani at the hands of the U.S. in January 2020 and the assassination of senior Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last November that was attributed to Israel.
Officials warned that such revenge attacks could originate from states such as Iraq or Yemen.
Israel has since deployed its Iron Dome missile defense system in the south, close to the Red Sea city of Eilat that shares a border with both Jordan and Egypt.