US to review terror designation of Yemen’s Houthi rebels following ship seizure

US to review terror designation of Yemen’s Houthi rebels following ship seizure

The US will review its decision to remove the Houthi rebel group from its list of designated terror organisations following the capture of an Israeli-linked ship over the weekend, the White House has announced.

The Iran-backed Yemeni group took control of the Galaxy Leader vessel in the southern Red Sea on Sunday and is holding its 25 crew members hostage.

The ship is believed to be associated with Ray Car Carriers, a company founded by Abraham Ungar, who is known as one of the richest people in Israel.

“In light of the recent targeting of civilians by the Houthis, and now 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,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reports on Tuesday.

Mr Kirby added that Iran was“complicit in its material support, and encouragement of the Houthi forces” and called on the group to “unconditionally” release the ship and its crew.

Joe Biden lifted the designation of the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen as a global terrorist organisation in 2021 in one of his first acts as president. The group was added to the list by the Trump administration in its final month in power.

Critics of the terror designation argued that it devastated aid and fuel shipments in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, which has often been described as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

Yemen’s Houthis released video footage on Monday showing the capture of the ship. In it, armed men dropped from a helicopter and took hostages at gunpoint. The group said in a statement that the hijacking was in retaliation to Israel’s campaign war in Gaza.

“All ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets,” the Houthis said. They added that they were treating the crew members “in accordance with their Islamic values,” without elaborating.