Yemen's Houthi militia on Monday condemned the move by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to brand it as "a terrorist group", head of the Houthi revolutionary committee, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, said in a statement.
The U.S. has classified Yemen's Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization following a series of attacks on oil tankers in the Red Sea and as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Iran in the final days of Donald Trump's presidency.
"The designations are meant to hold Ansar Allah accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure and commercial shipping", Mr Pompeo said in a statement late Sunday, using the official name of the Houthi movement.
President Donald Trump has taken a tough line on Cuba and rolled back numerous sanctions that the Obama administration had eased or lifted as part of a broader rapprochement with the communist island.
Relief organizations have long warned that sanctions could prove catastrophic for efforts to help starving Yemeni civilians caught in the conflict between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition at war with the rebels. "The U.S. government must ensure that any sanctions do not block food, fuel and medicines from entering a country already in the middle of a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe".
The designation is expected to scare away outside actors from many transactions with Huthi authorities, including bank transfers and buying food and fuel, for fear of United States prosecution.
People run following an explosion at the airport in Aden, Yemen, shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed Cabinet landed on December 30, 2020.
"We are planning to put in place measures to reduce their impact on certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen".
"We have expressed our readiness to work with relevant officials at the United Nations, with worldwide and non-governmental organizations and other global donors to address these implications". The Houthis denied they were behind the strike.
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Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in Yemen's war, with most of the nation dependent on some form of aid to survive.
The Yemeni conflict has triggered what the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Supporters of Ansarallah, also known as the Houthi movement, gather previous year to commemorate the anniversary of the group's takeover of Yemen's capital, Sanaa.
Pompeo said he was proceeding with the designation of the rebels, known as Houthis, along with separate terrorist designations for the three top rebel leaders.
"In fact, designating the Huthi movement will be perceived as politically motivated and will undermine the credibility of USA counterterrorism programs and policies, which serve as a first line of our nation's defence", they wrote.
"Yemen's faltering economy will be dealt a further devastating blow", said Mohamed Abdi, the group's director for Yemen. "Getting food and medicine into Yemen - a country 80 precent dependent on imports - will become even more hard".
Oxfam America's humanitarian policy lead Scott Paul called Pompeo's move "counter-productive and risky".
In response to criticisms by humanitarian aid agencies, Pompeo said that his department has prepared a plan to prevent impact of the move on the humanitarian activities and the supply of aid to Yemen.