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US redesignates Yemen’s Houthis as ‘global terrorists’

The designation, which does not take effect for 30 days, could be lifted if the Houthis cease their attacks, US officials say.

Houthi fighters and supporters protest against recent US-led strikes on Yemen [Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]Published On 17 Jan 202417 Jan 2024

The United States government has formally designated Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a “terrorist” organisation.

Washington’s relisting of the group as “specially designated global terrorists” on Wednesday comes after the US launched strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen in response to the group’s attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.

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The Houthis say their operations are aimed at ships with links to Israel and they will continue attacking targets until Israel’s war on Gaza stops.

“In response to these continuing threats and attacks, the United States announced the designation of Ansarallah, also known as the Houthis, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in statement.

“This designation is an important tool to impede terrorist funding to the Houthis, further restrict their access to financial markets, and hold them accountable for their actions.”

The designation does not take effect for 30 days, Sullivan said. “If the Houthis cease their attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the United States will immediately reevaluate this designation.”

The US previously designated the Houthis as a “foreign terrorist organisation” under former President Donald Trump’s administration despite strong objections from human rights and humanitarian aid groups.

In February 2021 under current President Joe Biden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delisted the Houthis as both a “foreign terrorist organisation” and as “specially designated global terrorists” as the Biden administration sought to make it easier to get humanitarian aid into Yemen.

US officials said they would design the financial penalties to minimise harm to Yemen’s 32 million people, who are among the world’s poorest and hungriest after years of war between the Iran-backed Houthis and a Saudi-led coalition that supports Yemen’s internationally recognised government.

“The people of Yemen should not pay the price for the actions of the Houthis,” Sullivan’s statement said. “We are sending a clear message: commercial shipments into Yemeni ports on which the Yemeni people rely for food, medicine and fuel should continue and are not covered by our sanctions.”

However, aid officials have expressed concern. The decision would only add “another level of uncertainty and threat for Yemenis still caught in one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises”, Oxfam America Associate Director Scott Paul said.

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Source: Al Jazeera