The United Nations confirmed on Wednesday that Yemen’s Houthi rebels have given the global body a one-month deadline to pull all of its U.S. and U.K. nationals out of the territory held by the terror group.
A letter dated Jan. 20 circulating on social media, purportedly from the Houthis, was addressed to the U.N. resident coordinator in Yemen, warning that such citizens had one month to leave the country.
“We have, in fact, received communications from the de facto authorities…giving us one month for all U.S. and UK nationals to leave the area under the control of the de facto authorities,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The Houthis, who control large parts of northern and western Yemen, have launched ceaseless attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and surrounding waters in an effort to end Israel’s military operation in Gaza. The group has faced growing counterstrikes on its positions from a coalition of nations led by Washington and London.
Peter Hawkins, the U.N.’s acting humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, is British. The United Nations has declined to release figures of how many of its staff would fall under the Houthis’ latest threat.
“What needs to be said is that any request or requirement for U.N. staff to leave based solely on the nationality of that staff is inconsistent with the legal framework applicable to the U.N.,” said Dujarric. “It also, of course, impedes our ability to deliver on the mandate to support all of the people in Yemen.”
The Biden administration last week sanctioned the Houthis as a specially designated global terrorist group, partially reversing a decision made in its early days to remove the group from the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list.
The Houthis are an Iranian proxy engaged in a years-long war with a Saudi Arabia-led coalition, with devastating effects for Yemen. Many diplomats and analysts fear a tenuous ceasefire with Riyadh may fall apart as the Houthis come under greater pressure from the U.S.-led international force.
Israel has thus far steered clear of direct military action against the Houthis, though the rebel group has launched a number of missiles toward Israeli territory.
The Houthis originally announced they would attack any ships in the Red Sea bound for Israel or owned by Israeli citizens or entities. Shortly thereafter, however, it began attacking vessels with no such links, causing major disruption in critical trade and humanitarian transport through one of the most heavily-trafficked waterways in the world.