UN sanctions on Yemen's Houthi rebels welcomed by OIC

The conflict in Yemen is entering a decisive phase amid a struggle for strategic cities

FILE PHOTO: Hodeidah port's cranes are pictured from a nearby shantytown in Hodeidah, Yemen June 16, 2018. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad/File Photo

The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) has welcomed the UN Security Council’s move to impose sanctions on three senior leaders of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council voted to place sanctions on Muhammad Abd Al Karim Al Ghamari, accusing his forces of “directly threatening the peace, security and stability of Yemen, including in Marib, as well as cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia”.

Houthi militias have frequently launched low-flying explosive drones towards civilian targets in Saudi Arabia, as well as firing ballistic missiles. A UN panel of experts released a report in January last year linking many of the Houthi weapons to Iranian designs.

"An increasing body of evidence suggests that individuals or entities in the Islamic Republic of Iran supply significant volumes of weapons and components to the Houthis," the report said.

Sanctions were also imposed on Yusuf Al Madani, described by the UN as being “assigned to the offensive targeting Marib", and Houthi assistant defence minister, Saleh Mesfer Saleh Al Shaer.

Al Shaer is accused of helping the group smuggle weapons into Yemen.

The OIC expressed hope the sanctions would hinder Houthi access to finance and weapons, saying the ultimate hope of the OIC was an end to the conflict.

“The organisation reiterated its standing by the Yemeni people and its support for the legitimate government, calling on the international community to work hard to support peace and end the Yemeni crisis to alleviate the human suffering of the Yemeni people," it said.

Yemen’s nearly seven-year conflict has seen a number of escalations since February, when Houthi militias launched an offensive to capture the northern oil-rich city of Marib, enduring heavy casualties owing to air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition.

The government has sent reinforcements to Marib in an attempt to break the stalemate.

In the country’s east, the war has also reached a critical turning point at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah.

The vital port – the fourth largest city in Yemen – has seen stable frontlines since a ceasefire was introduced following peace talks in Sweden in 2018. But the ceasefire began to break down in 2019 amid the Houthi occupation of the city.

Yemeni forces under a Saudi-led coalition said on Friday they had withdrawn from areas around the port city to help deter the Iran-aligned group's advances in other parts of Yemen.

"The joint forces recognised the mistake of remaining in defensive barricades, unable to fight under an international pact, while various front lines require support," they said.

Three sources told Reuters the forces also left Al Durayhimi and Al Tahita south of Hodeidah city, and that Houthi forces had moved in.

A government-backed agency that runs camps for internally displaced people told Reuters that 450 families fled those areas to coalition-held Al Khokha, 90 kilometres south of Hodeidah.

Updated: November 13th 2021, 3:48 PM