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Top US lawmakers lambaste Iran-backed Houthis after detaining of Embassy staff

“Breaching the sovereign territory of a foreign embassy and threatening and detaining its staff clearly demonstrate the Houthis have no interest in peace, nor in making the changes necessary to become legitimate members of the international community,” the lawmakers said Friday.

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A group of bipartisan US lawmakers blasted the Iran-backed Houthis on Friday, saying the group had no interest in proving to the international community that it could be a legitimate actor.

Congressmen Gregory Meeks and Michael McCaul, along with Senators Bob Menendez and Jim Risch, released a statement condemning the recent breach of the US Embassy in Sanaa and the detainment of US Embassy employees.

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Al Arabiya English reported on Thursday that the US State Department was working to secure the release of embassy employees and other Yemeni nationals employed by the US.

“We are deeply concerned by reports that the Houthis have breached our embassy compound in Sana’a and detained and harassed a number of US locally employed staff and former staff employed by the United Nations. Such acts violate international law and basic principles of human rights, and must not be tolerated,” the lawmakers wrote.

Bloomberg reported that at least 25 Yemenis were detained by the Houthis in recent weeks, citing two people familiar with the matter.

The Houthis, designated as a terrorist organization in the final days of the Trump administration, also “breached” the US compound that the Embassy used before they suspended operations in 2015, the official said.

“We call on the Houthis to immediately vacate it and return all seized property,” a State Department official told Al Arabiya English in an e-mail on Thursday.

The lawmakers said this was the latest in a series of violent acts by the Houthis, including hundreds of cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia threatening civilians, including US citizens, and deploying ballistic missiles inside Yemen.

“Their renewed offensive against the strategically important governorate of Marib has upended countless Yemeni lives, triggered fresh waves of displacement, and exacerbated the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” the US lawmakers wrote.

They were referencing the Houthi offensive in the last government stronghold in north Yemen. Analysts and former US officials say the group was emboldened to escalate its offensive after the Biden administration reversed the terror designation of the Houthis.

“The Houthis have long expressed a desire to assume a greater role in the governance of Yemen, but with governance comes responsibility and a need to uphold the basic principles of human rights and international law. Breaching the sovereign territory of a foreign embassy and threatening and detaining its staff clearly demonstrate the Houthis have no interest in peace, nor in making the changes necessary to become legitimate members of the international community,” the lawmakers said Friday.

They added: “The Houthis should immediately release all US and UN staff and suspend their campaign of harassment. Failing to do so is unacceptable and will have consequences.”

Read more: Yemeni Journalists Syndicate condemns attack on Al Arabiya reporter, his wife