Yemeni Civil War (2015–present)

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The Yemeni Civil War is an ongoing conflict that began in 2015 between two factions, each claiming to constitute the Yemeni government, along with their supporters and allies.[84] Houthi forces controlling the capital Sana'a and allied with forces loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have clashed with forces loyal to the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, based in Aden. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have also carried out attacks, with AQAP controlling swathes of territory in the hinterlands, and along stretches of the coast.[85]

On 21 March, after taking over Sana'a and the Yemeni government, the Houthi-led Supreme Revolutionary Committee declared a general mobilization to overthrow Hadi and further their control by driving into southern provinces.[86] The Houthi offensive, allied with military forces loyal to Saleh, began on the next day with fighting in Lahj governorate. By 25 March, Lahij fell to the Houthis and they reached the outskirts of Aden, the seat of power for Hadi's government;[87] Hadi fled the country the same day.[88][89] Concurrently, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia[10] launched military operations by using airstrikes to restore the former Yemeni government and the United States provided intelligence and logistical support for the campaign.[7] According to the UN and other sources, from March 2015 to November 2017, 8,670–10,000 people have been killed in Yemen, including more than 5,200 civilians.[80][81]

The Saudi Arabian intervention, which has included widespread bombing of civilian areas, has been sharply condemned by the international community.[90]

Background

Ansar Allah (sometimes Anglicised as Ansarullah), known popularly as the Houthis, a Zaidi group with its origins in the mountainous Sa'dah Governorate on Yemen's northern border with Saudi Arabia, began waging a low-level insurgency against the Yemeni government in 2004.[91] The intensity of the conflict waxed and waned over the course of the 2000s, with multiple peace agreements being negotiated and later disregarded.[92][93] The Houthi insurgency heated up in 2009, briefly drawing in neighbouring Saudi Arabia on the side of the Yemeni government, but quieted the following year after a ceasefire was signed.[94][95] During the early stages of the Yemeni Revolution in 2011, Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi declared the group's support for demonstrations calling for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.[96] Later in the year, as Saleh prepared to leave office, the Houthis laid siege to the Sunni-majority village of Dammaj in northern Yemen, a step toward attaining virtual autonomy for Sa'dah.[97]

The Houthis boycotted a single-candidate election in early 2012 meant to give Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi a two-year term of office.[98] They participated in a National Dialogue Conference, but withheld support from a final accord in early 2014 that extended Hadi's mandate in office for another year.[99][100] Meanwhile, the conflict between the Houthis and Sunni tribes in northern Yemen spread to other governorates, including the Sana'a Governorate by mid-2014.[101] After several weeks of street protests against the Hadi administration, which made cuts to fuel subsidies that were unpopular with the group, the Houthis came to blows with Yemen Army forces under the command of General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar. In a battle that lasted only a few days, Houthi fighters seized control of Sana'a, the Yemeni capital, in September 2014.[102] The Houthis forced Hadi to negotiate an agreement to end the violence, in which the government resigned and the Houthis gained an unprecedented level of influence over state institutions and politics.[103][104]

In January 2015, unhappy with a proposal to split the country into six federal regions,[105] Houthi fighters seized the presidential compound in Sana'a. The power play prompted the resignation of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and his ministers.[100][106] The Houthi political leadership then announced the dissolution of parliament and the formation of a Revolutionary Committee to govern the country on 6 February 2015.[107]

On 21 February, one month after Houthi militants confined Hadi to his residence in Sana'a, he slipped out of the capital and traveled to Aden. In a televised address from his hometown, he declared that the Houthi takeover was illegitimate and indicated he remained the constitutional president of Yemen.[108][109][110] His predecessor as president, Ali Abdullah Saleh—who had been widely suspected of aiding the Houthis during their takeover of Sana'a the previous year—publicly denounced Hadi and called on him to go into exile.[111]

Allegations of outside support

On April 2015, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan stated that: "It remains our assessment that Iran does not exert command and control over the Houthis in Yemen"[112][113]

The Houthis have long been accused of being proxies for Iran, since they both follow Shia Islam (although the Iranians are Twelve-Imam Shias and the Houthis are Five-Imam Shias). The United States and Saudi Arabia have alleged that the Houthis receive weapons and training from Iran.[114] The Houthis and Iranian government have denied any affiliation.[115] The African nation of Eritrea has also been accused of funneling Iranian material to the Houthis,[116] as well as offering medical care for injured Houthi fighters.[117] The Eritrean government has called the allegations "groundless" and said after the outbreak of open hostilities that it views the Yemeni crisis "as an internal matter".[116]

The Yemeni government, meanwhile, has enjoyed significant international backing from the United States and Persian Gulf monarchies. U.S. drone strikes were conducted regularly in Yemen during Hadi's presidency in Sana'a, usually targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.[118] The United States was also a major supplier of weapons to the Yemeni government, although according to the Pentagon, hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of that material has gone missing since it was delivered.[119] Saudi Arabia provided financial aid to Yemen until late 2014, when it suspended it amid the Houthis' takeover of Sana'a and increasing influence over the Yemeni government.[120] According to Amnesty International, the United Kingdom also supplied weaponry used by Saudi-led coalition to strike targets in Yemen.[121]

Timeline

Conflict begins

Troops loyal to Hadi clashed with those who refused to recognise his authority in the Battle of Aden Airport on 19 March 2015. The forces under General Abdul-Hafez al-Saqqaf were defeated, and al-Saqqaf himself reportedly fled toward Sana'a.[122] In apparent retaliation for the routing of al-Saqqaf, warplanes reportedly flown by Houthi pilots bombed Hadi's compound in Aden.[123]

Aden

After the 2015 Sana'a mosque bombings on 20 March 2015, in a televised speech, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthis, said his group's decision to mobilize for war was "imperative" under current circumstances and that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and its affiliates—among whom he counts Hadi—would be targeted, as opposed to southern Yemen and its citizens.[124] President Hadi declared Aden to be Yemen's temporary capital while Sana'a remained under Houthi control.[125][126]

Saudi Arabian soldier from the First Airborne Brigade with an Emirati soldier.

Also, the same day as the mosque bombings, al-Qaeda militants captured the provincial capital of Lahij, Al Houta District, after killing about 20 soldiers, before being driven out several hours later.[127]

Political developments

Hadi reiterated in a speech on 21 March that he was the legitimate president of Yemen and declared, "We will restore security to the country and hoist the flag of Yemen in Sana'a, instead of the Iranian flag."[128] He also officially declared Aden to be Yemen's "economic and temporary capital" due to the Houthi occupation of Sana'a, which he pledged would be retaken.[129]

In Sana'a, the Houthi Revolutionary Committee appointed Major General Hussein Khairan as Yemen's new defence minister and placed him in overall command of the military offensive.[130][131]

Control of Taiz

Houthi forces backed by troops loyal to Saleh entered Taiz, Yemen's third-largest city, on 22 March and quickly took over key points in the city. They encountered little resistance, although one protester was shot dead and five more were injured.[132][133][134] Western media outlets began to suggest Yemen was sliding into civil war as the Houthis from the north confronted holdouts in the south.[135][136][137]

Western Yemen advance

On 23 March 2015, Houthi forces advanced towards the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb strait, a vital corridor through which much of the world’s maritime trade passes.[138] The next day, fighters from the group reportedly entered the port of Mocha.[139][140] On 31 March, Houthi fighters entered a coastal military base on the strait after the 17th Armoured Division of the Yemen Army opened the gates and turned over weapons to them.[141]

On 2 April, Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, the foreign minister of Djibouti, said the Houthis placed heavy weapons and fast attack boats on Perim and a smaller island in the Bab-el-Mandeb strait. He warned that the weapons posed "a big danger" to his country, commercial shipping traffic, and military vessels.[142]

Southern offensive

Battle of Dhale

Houthi forces seized administrative buildings in Dhale (or Dali) amid heavy fighting on 24 March, bringing them closer to Aden.[143] However, Houthi fighters were swiftly dislodged from Ad Dali' and Kirsh by Hadi-loyal forces.[144]

Fighting over Dhale continued even as the Houthis advanced further south and east. On 31 March, Hadi loyalists clashed with the Houthis and army units loyal to Saleh.[145] The next day, a pro-Houthi army brigade was said to have "disintegrated" after being pummeled by coalition warplanes in Ad Dali. The commander of the 33rd Brigade reportedly fled, and groups of pro-Houthi troops withdrew to the north.[146]

Three F-15C Saudi from 13th Squadron

The city reportedly fell into pro-government hands by the end of May.[147]

Fighting in Lahij

In the Lahij Governorate, heavy fighting erupted between Houthis and pro-Hadi fighters on 24 March.[143] The next day, Al Anad Air Base, 60 kilometers from Aden, was captured by the Houthis and their allies. The base had recently been abandoned by United States of America US SOCOM troops.[148][149] Defence Minister Mahmoud al-Subaihi, one of Hadi's top lieutenants, was captured by the Houthis in Al Houta and transferred to Sana'a.[150][151] Houthi fighters also advanced to Dar Saad, a small town, 20 km north of Aden.[152]

On 26 March, after clashes erupted in Aden, Hadi loyalists counterattacked as a Saudi-led military intervention got underway. Artillery shelled Al Anad Air Base, forcing some of its Houthi occupants to flee the area.[153] Saudi airstrikes also hit Al Anad.[154] Despite the airstrikes, however, the southern offensive continued.[155][156]

Fighting reaches Aden

In Aden, military officials said militias and military units loyal to Hadi had "fragmented" by 25 March, speeding the rebel advance. They said the rebels were fighting Hadi's troops on five different fronts.[157] Aden International Airport suspended all flights.[158] Fighting reached Aden's outskirts on 25 March, with pro-Saleh soldiers taking over Aden International Airport and clashes erupting at an army base.[159][160] Hadi reportedly fled his "temporary capital" by boat as the unrest worsened.[151] The next day, he resurfaced in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where he arrived by plane and was met by Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud.[88]

Over the following days, Houthi and allied army forces encircled Aden[161][162] and hemmed in Hadi's holdouts, although they encountered fierce resistance from the embattled president's loyalists and armed city residents. They began pressing into the city center on 29 March despite coalition airstrikes and shelling from Egyptian Navy warships offshore.[163] On 2 April, the compound that has been used as a temporary presidential palace was taken by the Houthis,[164] and fighting moved into the central Crater and Al Mualla districts.[165]

A small contingent of foreign troops were reportedly deployed in Aden by early May, fighting alongside anti-Houthi militiamen in the city. Saudi Arabia denied the presence of ground troops,[166] while Hadi's government claimed the troops were Yemeni special forces who had received training in the Persian Gulf and were redeployed to fight in Aden.[167]

It is reported that forces loyal to Hadi have recaptured Aden with support from the Saudi Arabian government, this has allowed supplies to finally reach the port city giving civilians well needed aid. Pro-government fighters fully recaptured Aden from Houthi fighters on 21 July in Operation Golden Arrow after months of fighting. At this point, the pro-government fighters had recaptured more than 90% of the Province of Aden .

On 22 July a Saudi military plane landed in Aden international airport filled with relief aid. On 21 July, a UN ship docked in Aden carrying much-needed relief supplies, the first UN vessel to reach the city in four months. Another ship sent by the UAE also delivered medical aid. On 21 July a UAE technical team had arrived to repair the tower and passenger terminal at Aden international airport, heavily damaged in clashes. On 24 July a military plane from the UAE arrived filled with relief aid.[168]

On 4 August, Houthi rebels were pushed back from the Al-Anad airbase, by Pro-Hadi forces.[169] On 17 October, Saudi Arabia confirmed the arrival of Sudanese troops into Aden for the purpose of bolstering the Saudi-led coalition.[170][171] In January 2016, new conflict began in Aden, with ISIL and AQAP controlling neighborhoods in the city.[172]

Other campaigns

Abyan Governorate

The Houthis racked up a series of victories in the Abyan Governorate east of Aden in the days following their entrance into Hadi's provisional capital, taking control of Shuqrah and Zinjibar on the coast and winning the allegiance of a local army brigade, but they also encountered resistance from both pro-Hadi army brigadiers and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants.[173] The Zinjibar, Jaar recaptured by AQAP on 2 December.[174] In 20 February 2016 the southern Abyan also captured by AQAP linked them with their headquarters in Mukalla.[175]

Sana'a Governorate

As of February 2016, loyalist forces have managed to enter Sana'a governorate by capturing the Nihm District killing dozens of Houthi fighters. They continued advance capturing some cities and villages.[176]

Hadhramaut Governorate

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took control of Mukalla in the eastern Hadhramaut Governorate on 2 April, driving out soldiers defending the city with mortar fire and springing some 300 inmates from prison, including a local al Qaeda leader.[177][178] Local tribal fighters aligned with Hadi surrounded and entered Mukalla two days later, retaking parts of the city and clashing with both al-Qaeda militants and army troops.[179] Still, the militants remained in control of about half of the town. In addition, al-Qaeda fighters captured a border post with Saudi Arabia in an attack that killed two soldiers.[180]

On 13 April 2015, Southern militia said they took control of the army base loyal to the Houthis near Balhaf.[181]

Mukalla City was recaptured from AQAP in late April 2016, after UAE and Hadi loyalists troops entered the city, killing some 800 AQAP fighters.[182]

Lahij Governorate

Although the Houthis took control of Lahij on the road to Aden, resistance continued in the Lahij Governorate. Ambushes and bombings struck Houthi supply lines to the Aden front, with a landmine killing a reported 25 Houthi fighters on their way to Aden on 28 March.[183]

Shabwah Governorate

Fighting also centered on the Shabwa Province, in the oil-rich Usaylan region, where Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Ansar al-Sharia hold sway. On 29 March, 38 were killed in fighting between the Houthis and Sunni tribesmen. Tribal sources confirmed the death toll, and claimed only eight of them were from their side, with the other 30 either Houthis or their allies from the Yemeni military.[184]

On 9 April, the Houthis and their allies seized the provincial capital of Ataq. The takeover was facilitated by local tribal chiefs and security officials.[185] AQAP seized Azzan, and Habban in early February 2016.[186][187]

Elsewhere

In the province of Ma'rib, six members of Sunni tribes were killed during fighting against Houthis on 22 March.[133] The next day, 15 Houthis and 5 tribesmen were killed in clashes in the Al Bayda Governorate.[188] During fighting between Hadi loyalists and Houthi militiamen in Sana'a, the Ethiopian embassy was reportedly struck by shelling on 3 April. The Ethiopian government said the attack appeared to be unintentional. No injuries at the embassy were reported.[189]

Armed tribesmen drove off Houthis who had set up a makeshift camp in southern Ibb Governorate and seized their weapons on 7 April.[190] Between 17 and 18 April, at least 30 people were killed when the Houthis and allied army units attacked a pro-Hadi military base in Taiz. The dead included 8–16 pro-Hadi and 14–19 Houthi fighters,[191][192] as well as three civilians.[193] Another report put the number of dead at 85.[194] On the morning of 19 April, 10 more Houthi and four pro-Hadi fighters were killed.[195]

A pro-Hadi official claimed 150 pro-Houthi and 27 tribal fighters had been killed in fighting in Ma'rib province between 2 and 21 April.[196] On 4 September a Houthi missile hit an ammunition dump at a military base in Ma'rib killing 45 UAE, 10 Saudi and 5 Bahraini soldiers.[197] On 16 October, Houthis and allied forces reportedly seized control of a military base in the town of Mukayris, pushing opponents out of southern Bayda.[198] On 6 January 2016, Hadi loyalists captured the strategic port of Midi District, but insurgents backed by the Houthi government continued making attacks in and around the city.

Military intervention

Saudi-led intervention in Yemen

In response to rumours that Saudi Arabia could intervene in Yemen, Houthi commander Ali al-Shami boasted on 24 March that his forces would invade the larger kingdom and not stop at Mecca, but rather Riyadh.[199]

The following evening, Saudi Arabia began a military intervention alongside eight other Arab states and with the logistical support of the United States against the Houthis, bombing positions throughout Sana'a. In a joint statement, the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (with the exception of Oman) said they decided to intervene against the Houthis in Yemen at the request of Hadi's government.[200][201][202] King Salman of Saudi Arabia declared the Royal Saudi Air Force to be in full control of Yemeni airspace within hours of the operation beginning.[203] The airstrikes were aimed at hindering the Houthis' advance toward Hadi's stronghold in southern Yemen.[204]

Al Jazeera reported that Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a Houthi commander appointed in February as President of the Revolutionary Committee, was injured by an airstrike in Sana'a on the first night of the campaign.[205]

According to Reuters, planes from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain are also taking part in the operation.[10] Iran condemned the Saudi-led airstrikes and urged an immediate end to attacks on Yemen.[206] Saudi Arabia requested that Pakistan commit forces as well, but Pakistan's parliament officially voted to remain neutral.[207] However, Pakistan agreed to provide support in line with a United Nations Security Council resolution, dispatching warships to enforce an arms embargo against the Houthis.[57][208]

The bombing campaign was officially declared over on 21 April, with Saudi officials saying they would begin Operation Restoring Hope as a combination of political, diplomatic, and military efforts to end the war.[209] Even still, airstrikes continued against Houthi targets, and fighting in Aden and Ad Dali' went on.[210]

Arab League

In Egypt, the Yemeni foreign minister called for an Arab League military intervention against the Houthis.[200] Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi floated the idea of a unified military force.[citation needed]

The Arab League announced the formation of a unified military force to respond to conflict in Yemen and Libya.[211]

Drone strikes

Since the mid-2000s, the United States has been carrying out targeted killings of jihadist militants and ideologues in Yemen, although the U.S. government generally does not confirm involvement in specific attacks conducted by unmanned aerial vehicles as a matter of policy.[212]

During the civil war in Yemen, drone strikes have continued, targeting wanted leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Ibrahim al-Rubeish and Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, two leading AQAP figures, were killed by U.S. drone strikes in the vicinity of Mukalla in May.[213][214] Approximately 240 AQAP militants have been killed by American drone strikes since the civil war began.[215]

Islamic State presence and operations

The Islamic State has proclaimed several provinces in Yemen and has urged its adherents to wage war against the Houthi movement, as well as against Zaydis in general.[216] ISIS militants have conducted bombing attacks in various parts of the country, particularly against mosques in Sana'a.[217][218]

On 6 October 2015, IS militants conducted a series of suicide bombings in Aden that killed 15 soldiers affiliated with the Hadi government and the Saudi-led coalition.[219] The attacks were directed against the al-Qasr hotel, which had been a headquarters for pro-Hadi officials, and also military facilities.[219] Prior to the claim of responsibility by the Islamic State, officials from the UAE attributed the damage to rockets fired by forces loyal to the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh.[219]

May 2015 truce

A five-day ceasefire proposed by Saudi Arabia was accepted by the Houthis and their allies in the military on 10 May 2015. The ceasefire was intended to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to the country.[220] The temporary truce began on the night of 12 May to allow the delivery of food, water, medical, and fuel aid throughout the country.[221]

On the fourth day of the truce, the fragile peace unraveled as fighting broke out in multiple southern governorates. At least three civilians in Aden and 12 in Taiz were killed on 16 May, despite the ceasefire.[222] Agence France-Presse reported that "dozens" were killed in southern Yemen by the clashes, including 26 Houthi and 12 pro-Hadi fighters.[223]

Omani Initiative

Around this same time reports surfaced in the media suggesting that Oman, which is the only Middle Eastern Monarchy not taking part in the coalition and has a border with Yemen, has presented a 7-point plan to both Iran and Saudi Arabia. Oman has played a vital role as a bridge between Tehran and the West in the past to help in the nuclear negotiations and thus enjoys good relations with Iran as well as its GCC neighbors. It has also been suggested that Oman was responsible to mediate a 24-hour ceasefire although analysts doubt if Oman can help bring about more rigid negotiations.[224][225]

The following parts constituted the planned initiative:

  • The withdrawal of the Houthis and forces loyal to deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh from all Yemeni cities and the return of military hardware and munitions seized from the Yemeni Army.
  • The restoration of the president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the government of Khalid Bahah.
  • Early parliamentary and presidential elections.
  • An agreement signed by all Yemeni parties.
  • The conversion of Ansarullah into a political party.
  • An international aid conference attended by donor states.
  • Yemen entering the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Sabeen square mass demonstration

On Saturday, 20 August 2016, Yemini demonstrated at Satin Sana'a's Sabeen square, to show support for the Higher Political Council, the Shia Houthi rebel governing body backed by Iran and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The head of council pledged to form a full government within days.[226][227] The crowd size was variously placed at tens of thousands[226] and hundreds of thousands.[227] The crowd's demands were "quickly rejected by the United Nations and the country’s internationally recognized government."[227] Meanwhile, Saudi planes roared above the population and bombed nearby leaving an unknown number of casualties.[228]

2017

On 29 January, the Yakla raid occurred. U.S. Navy SEALs executed a raid, approved over dinner by U.S. President Donald Trump; the raid caused several civilian casualties, with "a chain of mishaps and misjudgments" leading to a 50-minute shootout that led to the killing of one SEAL, the wounding of three other SEALs, and the deliberate destruction of a $75 million U.S. MV-22 Osprey aircraft that had been badly damaged on landing.[229] The U.S. government reported that 14 Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters were killed and acknowledged that "civilian noncombatants likely were killed" as well.[230] Human Rights Watch, citing witness statements, reported the death of 14 civilians, including nine children.[231]

From 1 to 8 March 2017, the US conducted 45 airstrikes against AQAP, a record amount of airstrikes conducted against the group by the US in recent history. The airstrikes were reported to have killed hundreds of AQAP militants.[232][233]

On 25 March 2017 a court in the Houthi-controlled Sana'a sentenced Hadi and six other government officials to death in absentia for "high treason" in the form of "incitement and assistance to Saudi Arabia and its allies".[234][235] The sentence was announced by the Houthi-controlled Saba News Agency.[234]

In May 2017, ISIL's Wilayats in Yemen released their videos, claiming attacks upon both government, Houthi and AQAP targets. One, they recorded their attack upon a Houthi target, then assassinating government troops and tribal members. Then posting their suicide attacks.

On July 22, 2017 The Houthis and forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh launched a retaliation missile (called Volcano H-2) on Saudi Arabia targeting the oil refineries in the Yanbu Province of Saudi Arabia. Houthis and Ali Saleh media have claimed that the missile hit its target causing a major fire, while Saudi Arabia has claimed that it was due to the extreme heat that caused one of the generators to blow up.[236]

On 27 July 2017 The Houthis and forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh launched approximately 4 Volcano 1 missiles at King Fahad Air Base, the Houthis and Saleh said that the missiles had successfully hit their targets, whereas Saudi Arabia said that it was able to shoot down the missiles claiming that the Houthis real goal was to hit Mecca.[237]

CNN reported that on 1 October 2017, a US MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down north of Sanaa, the Houthi-controlled Defense Ministry said that it had "downed" the drone.[238]

CNN reported that on 16 October 2017, the US carried out its first airstrikes specifically targeting ISIS-YP, the strikes targeted two ISIS training camps in Al Bayda Governorate. A US Defense official told CNN that there were an estimated 50 fighters at the camps, the Pentagon said in a statement that the camps purpose was to "train militants to conduct terror attacks using AK-47s, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and endurance training." strikes disrupted the organization's attempts to train new fighters; the strikes were carried out in cooperation with the government of Yemen.[239]

On 2 December 2017, Ali Abdullah Saleh formally split with the Houthis, calling for a dialogue with Saudi Arabia to end the civil war.[240] Clashes in Saana ensued.[241] On 4 December 2017, Saleh was attacked and later killed by Houthi fighters while trying to flee Sanaa.[242]

On December 7th, 2017, troops loyal to Hadi captured the strategic coastal town of Al-Khawkhah in Western Yemen (115km south of Al-Hudaydah) from the Houthis. [243]

Humanitarian situation

CNN reported on 8 April 2015 that almost 10,160,000 Yemenis were deprived of water, food, and electricity as a result of the conflict. The report also added per sources from UNICEF officials in Yemen that within 15 days, some 100,000 people across the country were dislocated, while Oxfam said that more than 10 million Yemenis did not have enough food to eat, in addition to 850,000 half-starved children. Over 13 million civilians were without access to clean water.[244]

A medical aid boat brought 2.5 tonnes of medicine to Aden on 8 April 2015.[245] A UNICEF plane loaded with 16 tonnes of supplies landed in Sana'a on 10 April.[246] The United Nations announced on 19 April 2015 that Saudi Arabia promised to provide $273.7 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Yemen. The UN appealed for the aid, saying 7.5 million people had been affected by the conflict and many were in need of medical supplies, potable water, food, shelter, and other forms of support.[247]

On 12 May 2015, Oxfam warned that the five days a humanitarian ceasefire was scheduled to last would not be sufficient to fully address Yemen's humanitarian crisis.[221] It has also been said that the Houthis are collecting a war tax on goods. The political analyst Abdulghani al-Iryani affirmed that this tax is: "an illegal levy, mostly extortion that is not determined by law and the amount is at the discretion of the field commanders".[248]

As the war dragged on through the summer and into the fall, things were made far worse when Cyclone Chapala, the equivalent of a category 2 Hurricane,[249] made landfall on 3 November 2015. According to the NGO Save the Children, the destruction of healthcare facilities and a healthcare system on the brink of collapse as a result of the war will cause an estimated 10,000 preventable child deaths annually. Some 1,219 children have died as a direct result of the conflict thus far. Edward Santiago, the NGO's Yemen director, asserted in December 2016:[250]

Even before the war tens of thousands of Yemeni children were dying of preventable causes. But now, the situation is much worse and an estimated 1,000 children are dying every week from preventable killers like diarrhoea, malnutrition and respiratory tract infections.

In June 2017 a cholera epidemic resurfaced which was reported to be killing a person an hour in Yemen by mid June.[251] News reports in mid June stated that there had been 124,000 cases and 900 deaths and that 20 of the 22 provinces in Yemen were affected at that time.[252] UNICEF and WHO estimated that, by 24 June 2017, the total cases in the country exceeded 200,000, with 1,300 deaths.[253]

War crime accusations

Destroyed house in the south of Sanaa, 13 June 2015

According to Farea Al-Muslim, direct war crimes have been committed during the conflict; for example, an IDP camp was hit by a Saudi airstrike, while Houthis have sometimes prevented aid workers from giving aid.[254] The UN and several major human rights groups discussed the possibility that war crimes may have been committed by Saudi Arabia during the air campaign.[255]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote that the Saudi-led air campaign that began on 26 March 2015, had "conducted airstrikes in apparent violation of the laws of war, such as the March 30 attack on a displaced persons camp in Mazraq, northern Yemen, that struck a medical facility and a market". HRW also said that the Houthis had "unlawfully deployed forces in densely populated areas and used excessive force against peaceful protesters and journalists". In addition, HRW said that by providing logistical and intelligence assistance to coalition forces, "the United States may have become a party to the conflict, creating obligations under the laws of war".[256] Other incidents noted by HRW that had been deemed as "indiscriminate or disproportionate" or "in violation of the laws of war" were: a strike on a dairy factory outside the Red Sea port of Hodaida (31 civilian deaths);[257] a strike that destroyed a humanitarian aid warehouse of the international aid organization Oxfam in Saada;[258] the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s blockade of Yemen which kept out fuel desperately needed for the Yemeni population’s survival.[259]

Amnesty International said that several Saudi Arabian–led airstrikes, documented by it, hit five densely populated areas (Sa'dah, Sana'a, Hodeidah, Hajjah and Ibb), and "raise concerns about compliance with the rules of international humanitarian law".[260][261] Amnesty International added, that according to its research, at least 139 people, including at least 97 civilians (33 of whom were children) were killed during these strikes, and 460 individuals were injured (at least 157 whom are civilians).[260] HRW also said that pro-Houthi fighters may have committed war crimes when two women were killed in Yemen and aid workers were arrested for two weeks.[262]

U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Johannes van der Klaauw, said that air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition on Sa’ada city in Yemen, where many civilians were trapped, were in breach of international humanitarian law, despite calls for civilians to leave the area. Scores of civilians were reportedly killed and thousands forced to flee their homes after the Saudi-led coalition declared the entire governorate a military target, he said.[263][264] Van der Klaauw also said that coalition strikes had targeted schools and hospitals, in breach of international law,[265]

Yemeni capital Sanaa after airstrikes, 9 October 2015

A group of 17 aid agencies working in Yemen condemned the growing intensity of airstrikes in the north of Yemen on 8 and 9 May 2015. Save the Children’s Country Director in Yemen, Edward Santiago, said that the "indiscriminate attacks after the dropping of leaflets urging civilians to leave Sa'ada raises concerns about the possible pattern being established in breach of International Humanitarian Law".[266] Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has claimed that Houthi militias in alliance with the militants of exiled former president Ali Abdullah Saleh killed purposely at least 22 civilians in Taiz. According to eyewitnesses, the militants launched Katyusha rockets targeting the markets and residential neighbourhoods in the center of Taiz. As a result, many civilians were killed and wounded. On the other hand, local media belonging to Houthi militias have denied such accusation, accusing Saudi and ISIS for committing these attacks.[267]

In December 2015, HRW claimed that six "unlawful airstrikes" were carried out in the capital by the Saudi-led coalition in September and October, which killed 60 civilians. They also criticized the United States, a party to the conflict, for refusing to investigate the attacks.[268] In January 2016, local sources in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a reported that a Saudi-led coalition airstrike targeted the Noor Center for the Blind.[269] On 8 October 2016, a Saudi-led airstrike on a funeral ceremony that killed roughly 100 people and injured 500, including children. HRW is calling the attack an apparent war crime.[270]

In November 2017, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy accused the United States of complicity in war crimes and the humanitarian crisis on the Senate floor, stating "there is a humanitarian catastrophe inside this country – that very few people in this nation can locate on a map – of absolutely epic proportion. This humanitarian catastrophe – this famine … is caused, in part, by the actions of the United States of America."[271]

Refugees

Djibouti, a small country in the Horn of Africa across the Bab-el-Mandeb strait from Yemen, has received an influx of refugees since the start of the campaign.[142][272][273] Refugees also fled from Yemen to Somalia, arriving by sea in Somaliland and Puntland starting 28 March.[274][275] On 16 April 2015, 2,695 refugees of 48 nationalities were reported to have fled to Oman in the past two weeks.[276]

According to Asyam Hafizh, an Indonesian student who was studying in Yemen, Al-Qaeda of Yemen has rescued at least 89 Indonesian civilians which trapped in the conflict. Later on he arrived in Indonesia and he told his story to local Media[277] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported in August 2015 that a total of almost 100,000 people fled Yemen, especially to regional countries, like Saudi Arabia and Djibouti.[278] In September 2016, UNHCR estimated displacement of 2.4 million Yemenis within the country and 120,000 seeking asylum.[279]

Evacuation of foreign nationals from Yemen

Registration of Indian citizens evacuating from Yemen in March, 2015

The Royal Saudi Navy evacuated diplomats and United Nations staff from Aden to Jeddah on 28 March 2015.[280]

Pakistan dispatched two special PIA flights to evacuate some 500 stranded Pakistanis on 29 March 2015.[281] Several UN staff members and Arab diplomats were also evacuated following the airstrikes.[282]

The Indian government responded by deploying ships and planes to Yemen to evacuate stranded Indians. India began evacuating its citizens on 2 April by sea.[283] An air evacuation of Indian nationals from Sana'a to Djibouti started on 3 April, after the Indian government obtained permission to land two Airbus A320s at the airport.[284] The Indian Armed Forces carried out rescue operation codenamed Operation Raahat and evacuated more than 4640 overseas Indians in Yemen along with 960 foreign nationals of 41 countries.[285] The air evacuation ended on 9 April 2015 while the evacuation by sea ended on 11 April 2015.[286] The United States has assets in the region, but through its Yemen diplomatic mission website, instructed its citizens to evacuate using Indian assistance.[287]

A Chinese missile frigate docked in Aden on 29 March to evacuate Chinese nationals from Yemen.[288] The ship reportedly deployed soldiers ashore on 2 April to guard the evacuation of civilians from the city.[289] Hundreds of Chinese and other foreign nationals were safely evacuated aboard the frigate in the first operation of its kind carried out by the Chinese military.[290] The Philippines have announced that 240 Filipinos were evacuated across the Saudi border to Jizan, before boarding flights to Riyadh and then to Manila.[291]

The Malaysian government have deployed two Royal Malaysian Air Force C-130 aircraft to evacuate their citizens.[292] On 15 April, around 600 people have been evacuated by Malaysia which also comprising other Southeast Asian countries citizens such as 85 Indonesians, 9 Cambodians, 3 Thais and 2 Vietnamese.[293]

The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said it would airlift its citizens out of Yemen if they requested to be evacuated.[294] There were reportedly more than 50,000 Ethiopian nationals living and working in Yemen at the outbreak of hostilities.[295] More than 3,000 Ethiopians registered to evacuate from Yemen, and as of 17 April, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry had confirmed 200 evacuees to date.[296]

Throughout April, Russian military forces evacuated more than 1,000 people of various nationalities, including Russian citizens, to the Chkalovsky Airport, a military air base.[297]

Impact on citizens

Children and women

Yemeni refugee female and children are extremely susceptible to smuggling and human trafficking.[298] NGOs report that vulnerable populations in Yemen were at increased risk for human trafficking in 2015 because of ongoing armed conflict, civil unrest, and lawlessness. Migrant workers from the Somalia who remained in Yemen during this period suffered from increased violence, and women and children became most vulnerable to human trafficking. Prostitution on women and child sex workers is social issue in Yemen. Citizens of other gulf states are beginning to be drawn into the sex tourism industry. The poorest people in Yemen work locally and children are commonly sold as sex slaves abroad. While this issue is worsening, the plight of Somali's in Yemen has been ignored by the government.[299] Children are recruited between the ages of 13 and 17, and as young as 10 years old into armed forces despite a law against it in 1991. The rate of militant recruitment in Yemen increases exponentially. According to an international organization, between 26 March and 24 April 2015, armed groups recruited at least 140 children.[300] Both the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis were blacklisted by the UN over the deaths of children during the war. In 2016 Saudi Arabia was removed from the list after alleged pressure from gulf countries who threatened to withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to the UN, the decision was criticized by Human rights groups and the coalition added again in 2017 and was accused of killing or injuring 683 children, and attacking many of schools and hospitals in 38 confirmed attacks, while the Houthis were accused of being responsible for 414 child casualties in 2016.[301][302][303]

Education

The civil war in Yemen severely impacted and degraded the country's education system. The number of children who are out of school increased to 1.8 million in 2015–2016 out of more than 5 million registered students according to the 2013 statistics released by the Ministry of Education.[304] Moreover, 3600 schools are directly affected; 68 schools are occupied by armed groups, 248 schools have severe structural damage, and 270 are used to house refugees.> The Yemen government has not been able to improve this situation due to limited authority and manpower. Some of the education system's problems include: not enough financial resources to operate schools and salaries of the teachers, not enough materials to reconstruct damaged schools, and lack of machinery to print textbooks and provide school supplies. These are caused by the unstable government that cannot offer enough financial support since many schools are either damaged or used for other purposes. Due to warfare and destruction of schools, the education ministry, fortunately, was able to send teams to oversee primary and secondary schools' final exam in order to give students 15-16 school year certificates.[304] Currently, the UNICEF is raising money to support students and fix schools damaged by armed conflicts.

Residential condition

The Yemeni quality of life is affected by the civil war and people have suffered enormous hardships. Although mines are banned by the government, the Houthi forces have placed anti-personal mines in many parts of Yemen including Aden.[305] Thousands of civilians are injured when they accidentally step on mines; many lost their legs and injure their eyes. In addition, the nine country coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched several airstrikes against the Houthi forces. However, strikes between 2015 and 2016 killed more than 1920 civilians and destroyed many civilian infrastructure for good and food production, storage, and distribution.[306] Factories have ceased production and thousands of people have lost their job. Due to decreased production, food, medicines, and other consumer staples have became scarce. The price of these goods have gone up and civilians can no longer afford them for sustenance.

United Nations response

The United Nations representative Baroness Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said on 2 April that she was "extremely concerned" about the fate of civilians trapped in fierce fighting, after aid agencies reported 519 people killed and 1,700 injured in two weeks. The UN children's agency reported 62 children killed and 30 injured and also children being recruited as soldiers.[307]

Russia called for "humanitarian pauses" in the coalition bombing campaign, bringing the idea before the United Nations Security Council in a 4 April emergency meeting.[308] However, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United Nations questioned whether humanitarian pauses would be the best way of delivering humanitarian assistance.[309]

On 14 April, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution placing sanctions on Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and Ahmed Ali Saleh, establishing an arms embargo on the Houthis, and calling on the Houthis to quit Sana'a and other areas they seized.[310] The Houthis condemned the UN resolution and called for mass protests.[311]

Jamal Benomar, the UN envoy to Yemen who brokered the deal that ended Ali Abdullah Saleh's presidency during the 2011–12 revolution, resigned on 15 April.[312] Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, formerly the head of the UN's Ebola response mission, was confirmed as the new UN Envoy to Yemen on 25 April.[313]

Other calls for ceasefire

On 4 April, the International Committee of the Red Cross called for a 24-hour ceasefire to deliver aid and supplies after the Saudi-led coalition blocked three aid shipments to Yemen.[200][314] On 5 April, Reuters quoted a Houthi leader as saying the group would be willing to sit down for peace talks if the airstrikes stopped and a neutral party acted as mediator.[315] On 7 April, China added its support of a ceasefire in Yemen, following an appeal by the ICRC and Russia for a humanitarian pause.[316]

Despite Saudi Arabia asking for Pakistan's support to join the coalition,[317] the Pakistan government has also called for a ceasefire in order to help negotiate a diplomatic solution.[318] Alongside Turkey, Pakistan has taken initiatives to arrange a ceasefire in Yemen.[319] Analysis written in U.S. News, Pakistan's strategic calculations firmly believes that if the Saudis enter into a ground war in Yemen– with or without Pakistani military– it will become a stalemate; therefore, Pakistan is increasing its efforts to potentially help engineer a face-saving solution to achieve a ceasefire and end the war.[317]

On 12 April, Saudi Arabia rejected Iran's request about a ceasefire in Yemen. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, at a news conference with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius, that "Saudi Arabia is a responsible for establishing legitimate government in Yemen and Iran should not interfere."[320] Australia called for the ceasefire in Yemen, because of the civilian casualties numbers.[321] On 16 April, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requested an immediate ceasefire in Yemen. Also he said all parties must stop war as soon as possible.[322]

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif submitted four-point Yemen peace plan to United Nations. In this letter he pointed to enormous civilian casualties and destroying civilian infrastructure. He said the only way for stopping the war is making condition that allows to Yemeni parties to form a national unity government without any foreign military intervention.[323] Furthermore, since 21 April 2016, peace talks have started in Kuwait at the Bayan Palace.[324] In June 2015, a solution to ending the Saudi intervention in Yemen sought the participation of a Yemeni delegation to the Geneva peace talks; the delegation came under attack in the Geneva peace talks.[325]

In 10 April 2016, cease fire agreement reached in Yemen, after months of negotiation,[326] but peace talks were suspended on 6 August.[327]

Second Yemeni ceasefire attempt on 21 November 2016, collapsed within 48 hours.[328]

Other developments

Armed Houthis ransacked Al Jazeera's news bureau in Sana'a on 27 March, amid Qatar's participation in the military intervention against the group. The Qatar-based news channel condemned the attack on its bureau.[329] On 28 March, Ali Abdullah Saleh stated neither he nor anyone in his family would run for president, despite recent campaigning by his supporters for his son Ahmed to seek the presidency. He also called on Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to step down as president and said new elections should be held.[330]

Rumours about Saleh's whereabouts have swirled during the conflict. Foreign Minister Riyad Yassin, a Hadi loyalist, claimed on 4 April that Saleh left Yemen aboard a Russian aircraft evacuating foreign nationals from Sana'a International Airport.[331] Later in the month, Saleh reportedly asked the Saudi-led coalition for a "safe exit" for himself and his family, but the request was turned down.[332]

King Salman reshuffled the Saudi cabinet on 28 April, removing Prince Muqrin as his designated successor. The Saudi royal palace said Muqrin had asked to step down, without giving a reason, but media speculation was that Muqrin did not demonstrate sufficient support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.[333] A spokesman for Yemen's exiled government told Reuters on 29 April that the country would officially seek membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council.[334] Media reports have noted that the civil war has reached nearly all of Yemen, with one notable exception being the remote Indian Ocean archipelago of Socotra,[335] where the war spread due to the South Yemeni insurgency in 2017.[15][336]

Environmental impacts

Water

Water availability in Yemen has decreased.[337] Water scarcity with an intrinsic geographical formation in highlands and limited capital to build water infrastructures and provision service caused a catastrophic water shortage in Yemen. In a vicious circulation of dehydration between climate change, the water recharge into aquifers is decreasing and salt water intrusion is increasing.[338] After the civil war began in 2015, the water buckets were destroyed significantly and price of water highly increased. Storing water has demolished by war and supply chains have been occupied by military personnel, which makes the delivery of water far more difficult. In 2015, over 15 million people need healthcare and over 20 million need clean water and sanitation—an increase of 52 percent since the intervention, but the government agencies can not afford to deliver clean water to displaced Yemeni citizens.[339]

Agriculture

The Yemen civil war has resulted in a severe lack of food and vegetation. Agricultural production in the country has suffered substantially leaving Yemen to face the threat of Famine. Yemen is currently under blockade by land, sea and air which has disrupted the delivery of many of the countries resources. In country where 90% of the food requirements are met through imports this blockade has had serious consequences concerning the availability of food to its citizens.[340] It is reported that out of the population of 24 million in Yemen, everyday 13 million are going hungry and 6 million are at risk of starvation.[340] Contributing to this scarcity in food is the deliberate attack on the country’s agricultural resources. According to reports there is strong evidence suggesting that Yemen’s agricultural sector is being deliberately destroyed, exacerbating the food shortage and leaving the country dependent solely on imports to meet the food requirements of its citizens.[341]

See also

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External links

External video
The US may be aiding war crimes in Yemen on YouTube
  • Demystifying Yemen's Conflict (Midwest Diplomacy)
  • Yemen and the Huthis: Genesis of the 2015 Crisis (Asian Affairs Journal)
  • Timeline: Yemen (BBC)
  • As Saudis Block a Human Rights Inquiry in Yemen, America Stays Quiet. Vice. 1 October 2015.
  • Yemen: Coalition Bombs Homes in Capital. Human Rights Watch. 21 December 2015.
  • The United States May Be Guilty of War Crimes in Yemen. The Nation. November 2016.
  • Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, Yet Another Undeclared U.S. War (December 2016), TomDispatch.com
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