US strikes in Yemen after Huthis re-designated ‘terrorist’ entity

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American forces targeted 14 missiles that were ready to launch in Yemen, the U.S. military said Wednesday, after Washington re-designated the Iran-backed Huthi rebels as a “terrorist” entity for their attacks on merchant vessels.

The Huthis — who have already faced multiple rounds of air strikes in response to their targeting of international shipping — struck a U.S.-owned bulk cargo carrier in the wake of the designation announcement, and vowed to continue attacks they say are in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

U.S. forces “conducted strikes on 14 Iran-backed Huthi missiles that were loaded to be fired in Huthi-controlled areas in Yemen,” Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement.

“These missiles on launch rails presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region and could have been fired at any time, prompting U.S. forces to exercise their inherent right and obligation to defend themselves,” CENTCOM said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the United States announced that it would return the Huthis to a list of “terrorist” entities.

“The Department of State today is announcing the designation of Ansarallah, commonly referred to as the Huthis, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group, effective 30 days from today,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“During the 30-day implementation delay, the U.S. government will conduct robust outreach to stakeholders, aid providers, and partners who are crucial to facilitating humanitarian assistance and the commercial import of critical commodities in Yemen,” he said.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the designation “is an important tool to impede terrorist funding to the Huthis, further restrict their access to financial markets, and hold them accountable for their actions.”

“If the Huthis cease their attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the United States will immediately reevaluate this designation,” Sullivan said in a statement.

The Huthis, however, said they will not call off their strikes.

“We will not give up targeting Israeli ships or ships heading towards ports in occupied Palestine… in support of the Palestinian people,” the group’s spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam told Al Jazeera TV, adding that they would respond to new strikes on Yemen by the United States or Britain.

While the Huthis say they have been attacking Israeli-linked vessels, Washington says dozens of countries have connections to the ships that have been targeted.

The rebels have also declared American and British interests “legitimate targets,” and Huthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said in televised remarks that they targeted a U.S. vessel called the Genco Picardy in the Gulf of Aden.

 

The “terrorist” designation is part of Washington’s strategy to put pressure on the Huthis, which also includes military action against them, and the establishment of an international coalition to help protect shipping from the rebels’ attacks.

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

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

 

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,” a senior administration official said.

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