US: Houthis sanctioned, in terrorist groups list

The United States yesterday returned the Houthis to a list of terrorist groups as planned, hitting the Iran-aligned group with harsh sanctions that the United Nations fears could hurt Yemen’s fragile economy and civilians.

The United States in January said it would designate the Houthis as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” as it aimed to cut off funding and weapons the group has used to attack or hijack ships in vital Red Sea shipping lanes.

But a senior UN aid official on Wednesday said the sanctions could harm the war-torn country’s economy, particularly commercial imports of essential items. The UN says more than 18 million people need help in Yemen.

The attacks on ships, which the Houthis say are in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, have disrupted global commerce, stoked fears of inflation and deepened concern about the fallout from the Israel-Hamas war.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam said in a statement the U.S. decision reflects “blatant hypocrisy” and accused the US of sponsoring terrorism by supporting Israel.

A US State Department spokesperson said that the 30-day period from when Washington announced it would relist the Houthis as a terror group was used in part to give the Iran-backed rebels the opportunity to scale down their attacks.

Washington also worked with the shipping and financial industry as well as humanitarian assistance organizations to minimize the impact on the Yemeni people and make them aware of transactions that are allowed despite the sanctions, the spokesperson said.

“Yemen persists in supporting Gaza by all available means, and continues to prevent Israeli ships or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine until the Israeli aggression ceases and the blockade on Gaza is lifted,” Abdulsalam said.

The US Treasury Department in January issued licenses authorizing certain transactions involving the Houthis, including those related to agricultural commodities, medicine and medical devices.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration added the Houthis to two lists designating them as terrorists a day before its term ended. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken revoked the designations days after taking office in 2021.