In response to the U.S. State Department’s terrorist designation reversal, the rebels escalated attacks on civilian targets in Saudi Arabia.
The Biden administration warned Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Feb. 7 to halt terrorist attacks targeting civilians just 48 hours after revoking the terrorist designation for this Iran-supported group. A U.S. State Department spokesperson announced that the Biden administration was “deeply concerned by continued Houthi attacks” and encouraged the rebel group to “immediately cease attacks impacting civilian areas inside Saudi Arabia.”
In mid-January, outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo first announced the Trump administration’s decision to designate the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, or FTO. Pompeo pointed to the rebel group’s cross-border attacks and persistent threats against civilian populations, among other guerilla behavior, to justify this announcement.
The State Department’s reversal of the Trump administration’s designation also came three days after President Joe Biden ordered the United States to pull its support for Saudi-led military operations and cancel “relevant arms sales.” Critics of the Trump administration’s Saudi Arabia policy warned that labeling the Houthis would only exacerbate the conflict and lead to a greater humanitarian crisis. However, two days into this policy’s reversal, the Houthis increased attacks against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia.
On Feb. 8, two days after Biden revoked the Houthi terror designation, the Saudi-led coalition announced that it intercepted and destroyed four armed drones, accusing the Houthi rebels of intentionally targeting civilians in a terrorist attack. Although the Houthis did not immediately claim responsibility for this, the rebel group has taken credit for previous drone and missile attacks in Saudi Arabia. For instance, in December, 22 people were killed and dozens injured in a terror attack targeting the airport in the Yemeni city of Aden. A year prior, Houthi rebels fired rockets on a military parade in Yemen, killing more than a dozen civilians.
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Author: Maya Carlin
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