Security

US sanctions Houthi commanders leading Marib offensive

By Al-Mashareq and AFP

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Security forces loyal to the Houthis stand guard during a March 26 rally in Sanaa, marking the sixth anniversary of the Arab Coalition's intervention on behalf of the legitimate government in Yemen. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

The United States on Thursday (May 20) announced sanctions against two commanders of the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) in Yemen, who are leading an offensive to seize the last northern government stronghold of Marib.

The new designations are aimed at blocking the property of persons threatening the peace, security or stability of Yemen, the US Treasury said in a statement.

Sanctions were placed on Mohammed Abdul Kareem al-Ghamari, the Houthis' chief of the general staff, the Treasury said.

Al-Ghamari is responsible for orchestrating attacks impacting Yemeni civilians, and has taken charge of the large-scale offensive in Marib, replacing Abdul Khaliq al-Houthi, the brother of Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi.

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A woman walks with a boy and girl near a displacement camp on the outskirts of Yemen's northeastern city of Marib on March 28, as residents of the camp prepare to flee due to its proximity with battles between the Houthis and Yemeni government forces. [STR/AFP]

He is "directly responsible for attacks on infrastructure that have harmed civilians and now oversees an offensive in Marib that compounds human suffering", said Andrea M. Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

As the most senior commander within the Houthi military leadership structure, al-Ghamari is directly responsible for overseeing operations that have destroyed civilian infrastructure in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

He directs the procurement and deployment of various weapons, including improvised explosive devices (IEDs), ammunition and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the Treasury said.

Al-Ghamari also has overseen Houthi UAV and missile attacks against Saudi Arabian targets.

"Al-Ghamari reportedly received his military training in Houthi militia camps run by Lebanese Hizbullah and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)," the Treasury said.

Also designated for sanctions was Youssef al-Madani, another Houthi commander leading forces in the Marib campaign.

Al-Madani is a prominent Houthi leader and is the commander of the fifth military zone in al-Hodeidah, Hajjah, al-Mahwit and Raymah, the Treasury said.

"As of 2021, al-Madani was assigned to the offensive targeting Marib," the US State Department said in a statement.

"Persistent Houthi repositioning and other violations of the ceasefire provisions of the al-Hodeidah agreement have destabilised a city that serves as a critical thoroughfare for humanitarian and essential commercial commodities," it said.

"Additionally, there are regular reports of Houthi attacks impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure in and around al-Hodeidah, further exacerbating the situation for Yemenis facing some of the highest levels of humanitarian need."

'More suffering for the Yemeni people'

The conflict in Yemen, which began in 2014 when the Houthis staged a coup in Sanaa, pits the Houthis against the internationally recognised government, which is supported by the Arab Coalition.

The Houthis launched a fierce offensive in February to seize Marib, capital of an oil-rich region, where heavy battles have exacerbated what the United Nations already calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"The Houthis, with the support of the Iranian government, continue to wage a bloody war against the internationally recognised Yemeni government using ballistic missiles, explosives, naval mines and UAVs to attack bases, population centres, infrastructure and commercial shipping," the Treasury said.

"Iranian support through funding, training and military equipment has allowed the Houthis to threaten Yemen's neighbours and to conduct heinous attacks damaging civilian infrastructure in Yemen and Saudi Arabia," it added.

"If there were no offensive, if there were a commitment to peace, if the parties are all showing up to deal constructively with the UN envoy, there would be no need for designations," US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking said.

Lenderking said he regretted that the Houthis were absent during recent ceasefire talks.

"The Houthis are not winning in Marib and, instead, they're putting a great deal of stress on an already very fragile humanitarian situation," he added.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that, in leading the attack on Marib, al-Ghamari put around one million already internally displaced civilians at deeper risk.

The Marib attack "threatens to overwhelm an already stretched humanitarian response, and is triggering broader escalation", Blinken said.

"We call on the Houthis to immediately cease all attacks and military offensives, especially their offensive against Marib, which only causes more suffering for the Yemeni people," Blinken said.

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