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Yemen Houthis reject US plan to designate them as 'foreign terrorist group'

Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi head of the Revolutionary Committees in Yemen [Wikipedia]
Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi (C) head of the Revolutionary Committees in Yemen, 6 June 2017 [Wikipedia]

A senior leader of Yemen's Houthi group, Muhammad Ali Al-Houthi, has rejected plans by the US to designate the group as a "foreign terrorist organisation" and accused Washington of being "the source of terrorism".

Dhaifullah Al-Shami, the official spokesman for the Houthi-led National Salvation Government (NSG) based in the capital Sanaa yesterday labelled the US the head and sponsor of international terrorism and stated: "The American classification will not affect our military or social path, but rather we will increase in strength and determination to confront the US."

"The American decision has no meaning on the ground, and with this decision, it blocks the road to stopping the Saudi-led aggression and siege and seeks to prolong the war, and we are ready for the confrontation," he added.

A senior member of the Supreme Political Council, Mohammad Ali Al-Houthi also denounced the move and stated on Twitter that "The policy of the Trump administration and its behaviour is terrorist."

"We reserve the right to respond to any designation issued by the Trump administration or any administration."

The announcement by the outgoing administration of President Donald Trump still requires approval by Congress but has been widely condemned by humanitarian organisations on the ground that it will hinder aid efforts amid the worsening humanitarian crisis and risk of famine in the country.

Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch, Afrah Nasser remarked in a tweet yesterday: "It's brutal what's happening against civilians in Yemen. I don't know how much more suffering civilians can tolerate. Life is already hell in Yemen. The designation would have disastrous ramifications on the already dire economic and humanitarian crisis in Yemen."

"The US has stood by as Saudi and UAE forces have committed war crimes in Yemen, sometimes with US weapons. It adds insult to injury that the Trump administration – as a parting gift to its Gulf allies – would take such drastic action that is sure to harm even more civilians," she said in another tweet.

The Norwegian Refugee Council, which remains active in Yemen, said the designation "will hamstring the ability of aid agencies to respond" to the humanitarian needs of millions of Yemenis, most of whom rely on imports for access to food and medicine.

READ: US to designate Yemen's Houthis as terrorist group, says Pompeo

Senior US officials have also sent a letter to Pompeo calling on the Trump administration to "abandon plans" which would be "deeply damaging" to US national security, with the signatories including every living former US envoy to Yemen stating they did not believe the Houthi movement meets the definition of a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.

US lawmakers have also called on President-elect Joe Biden to overturn the Trump administration's decision. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy branded the move "a death sentence for thousands of Yemenis". "It will cut off humanitarian aid, make peace talks nearly impossible, and empower Iran. Biden should reverse this policy on day one," he said.

Peter Salisbury, a Yemen analyst at the International Crisis Group, explained that such a designation risks "collectively punishing" Yemeni civilians.

READ: Failure to realise Yemen's political reality prolongs the conflict and crisis

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