U.S. sanctions two Houthi leaders involved in Yemeni civil war

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March 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. government on Tuesday sanctioned two Houthi leaders, accusing them of prolonging Yemen's civil war and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis there.

The Treasury Department blacklisted Mansur al-Sa'adi and Ahmad 'Ali Ahsan al-Hamzi, described as "key militants" in the rebel group.

A release from the department said the two men orchestrated attacks that affected Yemeni civilians, bordering nations and commercial vessels in international waters.

"The United States condemns the destruction of civilian sites by the Houthi militants designated today. These individuals command forces that are worsening the humanitarian crisis in Yemen," said Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

According to the Treasury Department, al-Sa'adi serves as Houthi naval forces' chief of staff and coordinated attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea. The department said he received training in Iran and helped smuggle Iranian weapons into Yemen.

Al-Hamzi, meanwhile, is commander of the Houthi-aligned Yemeni air force and its unmanned aerial vehicle program. He also allegedly received Iranian training.

All property and interests in property of the two men in the United States or in possession by a person in the United States will be blocked under the sanctions order.

The announcement came about a month after President Joe Biden announced he was ending U.S. support for offensive military operations in Yemen. The United States supported Saudi-led operations in the country, which fought on behalf of the government led by Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi against Houthi forces, supported by Iran.

The United States also revoked its terrorist designation for Houthi rebels Feb. 12 in response to humanitarian groups' warnings that such a label and sanctions against the group could prevent civilians from accessing basic needs such as food and fuel.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. government "remains clear-eyed" regarding the rebels' "malign" actions, including the capture of much of western Yemen, including the capital of Sana'a, forcing Hadi to flee to the port city of Aden. About 80% of Yemen's population live in the Houthi-controlled area.

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