Houthi rebel fighters attend a funeral procession for Houthis who who were killed in recent fighting with forces of Yemen's Saudi-backed internationally recognized government, in Sana'a, Yemen, Feb. 16, 2021.
Houthi rebel fighters attend a funeral procession for Houthis who who were killed in recent fighting with forces of Yemen's Saudi-backed internationally recognized government, in Sana'a, Yemen, Feb. 16, 2021.

The United States imposed sanctions Tuesday on two senior leaders of the Iranian-backed Houthi militant group in Yemen.

“Mansur Al-Sa’adi and Ahmad ‘Ali Ahsan al-Hamzi are responsible for orchestrating attacks by Houthi forces impacting Yemeni civilians, bordering nations, and commercial vessels in international waters,” the U.S. Treasury Department said in a press release.

“These actions, which were done to advance the Iranian regime’s destabilizing agenda, have fueled the Yemeni conflict, displacing more than 1 million people and pushing Yemen to the brink of famine,” the statement added.

The Treasury Department said Al-Sa’adi, who received training in Iran, serves as the Houthi Naval Forces’ chief of staff, which masterminded “lethal attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea.”

It also accused the Houthi naval forces of laying naval mines, which can pose a threat to commercial fishing and civilian shipping. Al-Sa’adi is also accused of smuggling Iranian weapons into Yemen.

Ahmad ‘Ali Ahsan al-Hamzi, is the head of the Houthi-aligned Yemeni Air Force and Air Defense Forces. In addition to unmanned aerial vehicles, he reportedly acquired Iranian weapons that have been used in the Yemeni civil war. He also allegedly received training in Iran.

The conflict in Yemen began in 2014, when the militant group, also known as Ansarallah, seized the capital Sanaa and other cities in the country’s north. A Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015 to support the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi.

U.S. officials said Iran’s support for the rebel groups has also destabilized the broader region.

“Ansarallah uses Iranian weapons, intelligence, training, and support to conduct attacks threatening civilian targets and infrastructure in Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Tuesday.

He added that the U.S. remains committed “to promoting accountability for Ansarallah’s malign and aggressive actions, which include exacerbating conflict in Yemen, attacking our partners in the region, kidnapping and torturing civilians, preventing humanitarian aid access, repressing the Yemeni people in areas they control, and orchestrating deadly attacks beyond Yemen’s borders.”

The U.S. designations come two days after Saudi Arabia thwarted a missile attack on the capital Riyadh. The attack was claimed by Houthi rebels.

In a separate Houthi attack Monday on Saudi’s southwestern region of Jazan, at least five civilians were wounded.

Houthis have threatened to carry out more attacks against Saudi Arabia as the latter continues its military operations against the rebel group in Yemen.

“Our operations will continue and will expand as long as the aggression and siege on our country continues,” Yahya al-Saree, a Houthi spokesman told the group’s al-Masirah TV channel on Sunday.

In February, the U.S. removed the Houthis from its terror list, reversing a decision made by the administration of former President Donald Trump.

U.S. officials hope the decision will help ease Yemen’s deteriorating humanitarian crisis.

 

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