Houthis Bomb Civilian Airport Days After Biden Removes Terrorist Designation

Houthis (Mohammed Huwais/AFP via Getty Images)
February 10, 2021

Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen bombed an airport in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, just days after the Biden administration lifted the group’s terrorist designation.

The drone strike targeted Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia, an airport just 75 miles from the Yemeni border that is frequently targeted by the militant rebel group. The attack set one civilian plane on fire, according to the Saudis, who say they intercepted and destroyed two armed drones launched by the Houthis from across its southern border in Yemen.

Last Friday, the Biden administration removed the terror designation placed on the Houthis by former secretary of state Mike Pompeo earlier this year. The Houthis, who control significant territory along Saudi Arabia's border with Yemen, have called for cooperation with the terrorist group Hezbollah in future wars against Israel, and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2019 that Iran has sought ways to launch missiles at Israel from Houthi-controlled territory.

Biden's State Department said it removed the designation because it undermined humanitarian efforts in Yemen. In a press briefing Wednesday, spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday's bombing would not change the administration's course on lifting the terror designation.

"We can ensure that we are not adding to the already substantial suffering of the Yemeni people," Price said, "while we continue to hold the Houthis to account."

Price did not say what actions would be taken to hold them accountable. The attack came as the Biden administration's special envoy to Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, arrived in Riyadh to conduct several meetings with Yemeni and Saudi officials.

The Biden administration last week ended United States military support for Saudi Arabia's fight against the Houthis. "There is no military solution when it comes to the conflict in Yemen," Price said.