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UN Slaps Expanded Arms Embargo on Yemen's Houthi Rebels


FILE - A Houthi rebel fighter fires in the air during a gathering aimed at mobilizing more fighters for the Houthi movement, in Sanaa, Yemen, Aug. 1, 2019.

The U.N. Security Council voted Monday to impose an expanded arms embargo on Yemen's Houthi rebels, saying they have threatened the peace, security and stability of the war-torn country.

Council members said the rebels are responsible for attacking civilians, commercial shipping in the Red Sea, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Security Council had already imposed an asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo against Houthi leaders and top officials but this resolution dramatically expands the arms embargo to include all Houthis.

The British-drafted resolution said the Iran-backed Houthis "implemented a policy of sexual violence and repression against politically active and professional women, engaged in the recruitment and use of children," indiscriminately used land mines and improvised explosive devices, and obstructed humanitarian aid to Yemenis.

Yemen has been convulsed by civil war since 2014, when the Houthis took control of the capital of Sanaa and much of the northern part of the country, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015, backed by the United States, to try to restore President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power. Despite a relentless air campaign and ground fighting, the war has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and spawned one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. The U.S. has since suspended its direct involvement in the conflict.

FILE - Yemenis present documents in order to receive food rations provided by a local charity, in Sanaa, Yemen, April 13, 2017.
FILE - Yemenis present documents in order to receive food rations provided by a local charity, in Sanaa, Yemen, April 13, 2017.

Monday's vote was 11-0 with Ireland, Norway, Brazil and Mexico abstaining amid concerns about the negative impact on the dire humanitarian situation in the Arab world's poorest nation and the risk of undermining a fragile political process.

Since 2014, nine Yemenis have been added to the U.N. sanctions blacklist. including Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, leader of the Houthi movement, and Yemen's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who reportedly died in December 2017. Last year's additions included three senior Houthi rebels linked to cross-border attacks from Yemen into Saudi Arabia and the Houthi offensive in the central desert city of Marib.

The resolution extends the sanctions against them until Feb. 28, 2023, which include an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban.

The resolution adopted Monday adding the arms embargo to all Houthis calls on all countries "to increase efforts to combat the smuggling of weapons and components via land and sea routes, to ensure implementation of the targeted arms embargo."

It "strongly condemns the cross-border attacks by the Houthi terrorist group, including attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates striking civilians and civilian infrastructure, and demanding the immediate cessation of such attacks."

U.N. envoys have been trying for several years to get the Houthis and the government to commit to a nationwide cease-fire and to reopen Sanaa airport to commercial traffic. They've also pushed them to ensure an uninterrupted flow of fuel and commodities through the main port of Hodeida and to resume a political process aimed at reaching a political settlement.

The resolution says there is no military solution to the current conflict and that the only viable path forward is "dialogue and reconciliation among the multiple and varied parties."

It extends the mandate of the U.N. panel of experts monitoring implementation of the sanctions until March 28, 2023.

In their last report circulated on January 29, the experts said nearly 2,000 children recruited by the Houthis died on the battlefield between January 2020 and May 2021, and the Iranian-backed rebels continue to hold camps and courses encouraging youngsters to fight.

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