Houthis in Yemen
Houthis in YemenReuters

The United States on Wednesday sanctioned members of an illicit financing network for Yemen’s Houthi rebels, The Associated Press reported.

The new sanctions are aimed at a source of the rebel group's financial support, targeting alleged front companies and ships that the US says worked with a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard to smuggle petroleum and other commodities around the Middle East, Asia and Africa to help fund the Houthis.

"Despite pleas to negotiate an end to this devastating conflict, Houthi leaders continue to launch missile and unmanned aerial vehicle attacks against Yemen´s neighbors, killing innocent civilians, while millions of Yemeni civilians remain displaced and hungry," Treasury Undersecretary Brian E. Nelson said in a statement quoted by AP.

The Biden administration already sanctioned what it says is the Houthis' lead financier, Said al Jamal, and other alleged members of the smuggling network last year. Wednesday's sanctions name additional individuals and businesses.

The Houthi rebels, which are backed by Iran, have regularly fired missiles and drones at Saudi Arabia since 2015, when a Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen to try to restore the government.

It has long been believed that Iran is planning to use the Houthis to take over Yemen and seize the key strategic port of Aden, which controls the entrance to the Red Sea and ultimately to the Israeli resort city of Eilat.

Iran denies it is backing the Houthis and has also denied Saudi Arabian accusations that Tehran provided the Houthi rebels in Yemen with ballistic capabilities.

In recent months, the Houthis have launched several attacks on targets in the United Arab Emirates, including a missile attack during the visit of President Isaac Herzog.

Following those attacks, Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed asked US Secretary of State Tony Blinken to re-designate the Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization.

Blinken last year announced the removal of the Houthi rebels from the US list of foreign terrorist organizations, reversing a decision that was made by the Trump administration days before the end of his term.