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WASHINGTON: Washington announced new sanctions Friday on two companies in Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates, moving to crack down on the financial network funding Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The move comes hours after US and UK forces launched strikes against the Houthi rebels, seeking to halt their repeated attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.

The Houthi’s attacks, which the group says are in protest at Israel’s war against Hamas, has forced cargo ships to avoid the Suez Canal – one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

The two companies designated on Friday by the US Treasury Department were Hong Kong-based Cielo Maritime and UAE-based Global Tech Marine Services.

Aggression widens: US, Britain carry out strikes against Houthis in Yemen, officials say

They were said to have shipped Iranian commodities on behalf of the network of Houthi financial facilitator Sa’id al-Jamal, said the Treasury.

“The revenue from the commodity sales supports the Houthis and their continued attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden,” the department added in a statement.

“We will take all available measures to stop the destabilizing activities of the Houthis and their threats to global commerce,” said Brian Nelson, Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

In its latest move, the Treasury also identified four vessels as “blocked property” in which the designated companies have an interest.

Some of the vessels were said to have used forged documents to hide the Iranian origin of cargo.

The latest sanctions follow similar actions in December last year.

Following the latest US and UK strikes, the Iran-backed rebels’ Supreme Political Council has threatened retaliation, and the UN Security Council is due to hold an emergency meeting on Friday afternoon.

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