The Houthi escalation follows President Joe Biden’s announcement last month that he would be ending support for the coalition’s offensive operations in Yemen and halting relevant arms sales. Biden also revoked the Donald Trump administration’s terrorist designation of the Houthi rebels, citing concerns the blacklisting could interfere with the delivery of critical humanitarian aid.
But following a spate of Houthi cross-border attacks, the US Treasury on Tuesday announced new sanctions on two Houthi military leaders, Mansur al-Saadi, the head of the Houthis’ naval forces, and Ahmad Ali Ahsan al-Hamzi, head of the rebels’ air force.
Reuters reported that Biden’s special envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, met with Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdul-Salam in Oman’s capital, Muscat, on Feb. 26. State Department spokesperson Ned Price declined to confirm the reports.
The rebels are meanwhile pressing ahead with an offensive on the gas-rich Yemeni province of Marib, which until now was mostly spared from the grueling conflict. The United Nations has warned of a looming humanitarian crisis if the Houthi offensive on Marib, the last major stronghold of the Saudi-backed government, is successful. Some 2 million internally displaced people live in the region and they will have nowhere safe to flee, aid groups warn.