On Thursday, November 23, U.S. warships shot down multiple one-way attack drones launched from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen towards Israel. These operations, along with ship seizures, have prompted Washington to consider re-designating the Houthis as a terrorist group, a list the rebels were removed from in 2021.
Regional sources report on Houthi-Israeli tensions amid the Israel-Hamas war and the potential re-designation:
Reporting on the interception of drones, Al-Jazeera wrote that “the USS Thomas Hudner, a guided-missile destroyer, shot down ‘multiple one-way attack drones’ launched on Thursday morning from Yemen’s Houthi-controlled areas,” according to the U.S. Central Command.
The attack follows a Houthi seizure of an Israeli-linked cargo vessel. Daily Sabah explained: “The Iran-backed Houthi rebels stated that they hijacked the ship due to its connection to Israel and announced their intention to target ships in international waters linked to or owned by Israelis until the end of Israel’s campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers.”
Al-Ahram notes that “the Houthis have declared themselves part of Iran’s ‘axis of resistance’ which includes Shia groups in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. Similar attacks on Israel have been launched from Syria and Lebanon.” The article quotes Middle East analyst Mohammed Albasha as saying that “the group seeks strategic objectives through their involvement in a regional conflict, including securing political influence in Yemen and the broader region.” More specifically, “the Houthis are also trying to strengthen their hand in peace talks with Saudi Arabia, which is looking to negotiate an exit from Yemen’s war,” according to researcher Majid Al-Madhaji.
In response to these operations, the U.S. says it has been considering re-designating the Houthis as a terrorist organization. Al-Arabiya quotes National Security Council spokesman John Kirby as saying that “in light of…the piracy of a ship in international waters, we have begun a review of potential terrorist designations and we’ll be considering other options together with our allies and partners as well.” Kirby also asserted that “the Houthis’ seizure of the ship was a flagrant violation of international law and said Iran was complicit.”
Al-Jazeera provided insight into the decision to delist the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization, a decision the Biden administration made “in 2021, undoing a move by former President Donald Trump. The United Nations and aid groups had criticised the designations, saying their restrictions complicated aid deliveries to war-torn Yemen.”
Yemen’s internationally recognized government has encouraged the designation, accusing the Houthis of “jeopardizing shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden,” as explained by Arab News. Faisal Al-Majidi, an undersecretary at the Yemeni Ministry of Justice, “told Arab News that the Houthis had been eligible for categorization for years, ever since they began planting thousands of landmines around the country, laying siege to cities, recruiting minors, blowing up opponents’ homes, and kidnapping people.”
According to Haaretz, Abdel-Malek Al-Houthi, the Houthis’ leader, said that “if the U.S. intervenes in the Gaza conflict directly, the group will respond by firing drones and missiles, and take other military options.”
(Image: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian G. Reynolds)