Updated Jan 17, 2024 - World

U.S. puts Yemen's Houthi rebels back on global terrorist list

A screenshot captured from a video shows a cargo ship co-owned by an Israeli company being attacked by Iran-backed Houthis from Yemen in the Red Sea in November. Photo: Houthis Media Center/Handout /Anadolu via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Wednesday re-designated Yemen's Houthis as a "global terrorist group" in response to dozens of attacks by the rebels on merchant and commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

The latest: Hours later, U.S. military officials said American forces conducted strikes on 14 Iran-backed Houthi missiles "that were loaded to be fired" from Yemen.

The big picture: The reinstating of the designation follows U.S. military intervention in the region as the Iran-backed Houthi rebels continue their attacks on vessels, hampering international shipping routes and supply chains.

Flashback: Shortly after taking office, President Biden removed the Trump administration's designation of the Houthi rebels as terrorists, arguing it hampered humanitarian assistance to people in Yemen.

Yes, but: The Biden administration stopped short of adding the Houthis back on the "foreign terrorism organization" list. A U.S. official said the administration believes the "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" designation is the "appropriate tool at this moment."

Context: Millions of Yemenis have been displaced and are at risk of acute hunger due to fighting between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

State of play: The U.S. and U.K. last week conducted airstrikes against the Houthis in response to the group's attacks, but the Houthis conducted retaliatory strikes.

  • A missile fired by the Houthis struck a U.S.-owned ship near the coast of Yemen.

Of note: On Tuesday, U.S. Navy SEALs seized a cache of Iranian-supplied missile parts and other weaponry bound for the rebel group.

Go deeper: What to know about Yemen's Houthi rebels and the Red Sea conflict

Editor's note: This story and headline have been corrected to reflect the U.S. government redesignated the Houthi rebel group as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" (not a Foreign Terrorist Organization). The story has also been updated with details of the designation and the latest round of U.S. strikes on Houthi targets. 

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