Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi insurgents, removed from the list of terrorist organizations by the Biden administration last month, fired a missile into a school on Sunday, killing three children along with 15 soldiers from the internationally-recognized government of Yemen.
The attack occurred in a district called Kadha in southwestern Yemen, controlled by the Houthi insurgents until government forces recaptured it last week. According to local residents, the Houthis occupied the school until pro-government fighters pushed them out of Kadha.
Kadha is located in a region called Taiz that has seen intense fighting between the Houthis and government troops in recent weeks. The government is attempting to regain control of the key port city of Hodeidah and appears to be making some progress, with air support from the allied coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
The Yemeni government also hopes to distract the Houthis from their own major offensive into the central province of Marib, which currently houses almost a million refugees driven from other parts of Yemen during the seven-year civil war. Yemen is already the scene of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and the situation would become even direr if the Houthis were able to push deep into Marib.
The Biden administration complained over the weekend that the Houthis seem more interested in capturing more territory than following a peace plan.
“We now have a sound plan for a nationwide cease-fire with elements that would immediately address Yemen’s dire humanitarian situation directly. That plan has been before the Houthi leadership for a number of days,” said U.S. envoy Tim Lenderking on Friday.
The stated reason for delisting the Houthis as a terrorist organization was persuading them to stop interfering with humanitarian aid shipments. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said on Friday that while “all the warring parties” bear some of the blame for the horrifying situation in Yemen, the “most egregious” disruptions of humanitarian aid have been perpetrated by the Houthis.
Houthi leaders on Monday applauded Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for ostensibly pledging to remove all foreign influence from Yemen.
According to State Department spokesman Ned Price on Sunday, Blinken told the U.N. special envoy for Yemen that the Biden administration “supports a unified, stable Yemen free from foreign influence and that there is no military solution to the conflict.”
The Houthis took this as a “positive” sign the U.S. will pressure Saudi Arabia into withdrawing its military support for the government of Yemen, while the Houthis would continue to enjoy economic, political, and military support from Iran.