US re-designates Yemen's Houthis as 'terrorist' entity

US re-designates Yemen's Houthis as 'terrorist' entity
Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebel group have been re-designated as a "terrorist" group by Washington following repeated attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.
3 min read
The Houthis said Washington's designation will not affect the group's operations in the Red Sea [Getty]

The United States announced Wednesday that it will put Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels back on a list of "terrorist" entities due to their repeated attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea.

"The United States will designate... the Houthis as a specially designated global terrorist," a senior US administration official told journalists, noting that the designation does not take effect for 30 days and that it could also be lifted "if the Houthis cease their attacks."

The attacks "are a clear example of terrorism and a violation of international law and a major threat to lives, global commerce, and they jeopardise the delivery of humanitarian assistance," the official said.

The designation is part of Washington's strategy to put pressure on the Houthis, which has also included military action against them.

But it will not affect their operations to prevent Israeli ships or ships heading to Israel from crossing the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Bab al-Mandab Strait, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the US military said it destroyed four anti-ship missiles in Yemen that posed an imminent threat to military and civilian vessels.

It was at least the third time in a week that US forces have targeted the Houthis, who say they are carrying out attacks on shipping in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where about 24,500 people have been killed in Israel's air and ground offensive since October 7.

The United States and Britain targeted nearly 30 sites in Yemen with more than 150 munitions last week, while American forces later attacked a Houthi radar site in what was described as "a follow-on action" related to the previous strikes.

The rebels have declared US and British interests "legitimate targets," and have continued attacks against ships in the Red Sea.

In 2021, US President Joe Biden's administration removed his predecessor Donald Trump's last-minute designation of the Houthis as a terrorist movement.

The removal came in response to fears from aid groups that they would need to pull out of Yemen as they are obliged to deal with the rebels, who effectively are the government in vast areas including the capital Sanaa.

The United States decided to use the specially designated global terrorist designation now because it "provides better flexibility to achieve the aims that we have in terms of carving out and safeguarding humanitarian assistance, as well as the broader well-being of the people of Yemen," the senior administration official said.

The designation denies the Houthis access to the US financial system and enables the imposition of sanctions on their supporters.