Yemeni Civil War


“We have no interest in seeing an unstable Yemen
or seeing a Yemen that is devastated.”

Adel al-Jubeir




               Yemen (Spilling into Saudi Arabia)


               5 million


               Over 10,000 since 2015

      Refugees/Displaced People:

               Approx. 3 million since 2015


               At least 100,000 Houthi rebels

               Yemen Armed Forces (Approx. 

               43,500 soldiers)



Yemen, also known as the Republic of Yemen, lies on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula and is no stranger to conflict. While the current Yemeni Civil War has been in full force since 2015, the country has a history of civil conflict – not the least including the 20-year war between north and south before the country was united as a Republic in 1990. The present conflict not only involves competing internal factions, but is intensified by the presence of non-state actors (namely Al Qaeda and ISIS operatives); support from competing foreign powers, and an underlying humanitarian crisis that plagues the civilian population.


                 Key Actors:

  • Supreme Revolutionary Committee led by the Houthis, a Shia rebel group. This faction is also supported by those loyal to former president Ali Abullah Saleh.
  • Iran allegedly supports the Houthis in this conflict.
  • Forces loyal to current Yemen President, Adb Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, are fighting the Houthi-led rebels.
  • A Saudi-led coalition strongly supports the government of President Hadi, predominately through aggressive air strikes against Houthi targets – though these have notoriously resulted in substantial civilian casualties. The Saudi-led coalition includes other Gulf States such as the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait. Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Sudan are also supporting parties of this coalition. The most notable supporter of the Saudi-led alliance is the United States, who provide (and have done so since WWII) significant military, intelligence and logistical support to Saudi Arabia and are therefore directly fueling the conflict. Outside of its involvement in the Saudi coalition, the US has also been known to engage in drone strikes against terrorist targets within Yemeni territory.
  • Non-state actors –  ‘Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula’ (AQAP) and ISIL – also play a role in the conflict.



  • 1918 – Yemen gains independence from the Ottoman Empire
  • 1967 – Southern Yemen becomes independent from the British Empire
  • 1990 – North and south Yemen unite as the Republic of Yemen, with the city of Sanaa as the capital.
  • 1993 – First parliamentary election held post-unification.
  • 2002 – first recorded US Predator drone strike conducted, killing six. This was the first known US drone strike to take place outside of Afghanistan (which was, at that time, an active war zone).
  • 2011 – Arab Spring protests across the Middle East spark unrest and cries for change in Yemen; by November incumbent president Ali Abullah Saleh agrees to transition power to his deputy, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. The transition is not successful, with significant social and security problems plaguing the country.
    • A separatist movement forms in southern Yemen, spear-headed by Houthi groups who refuse to participate in the new Hadi government.
  •  2014 – The National Dialogue Conference concludes in January, to determine the new constitution. Houthi rebels take over Yemeni capital Sana’a in September, citing discrimination by new government.
    • UNSC passes Resolution 2140, beginning predominantly travel and financial sanctions on individuals/groups identified as threatening peace and security in Yemen.

2015 – present: Yemeni Civil War

  • January, 2015 – Draft constitution rejected by Houthis. President Hadi and government resign in protest as Houthis takeover the capital.
  • February, 2015 – Houthis declare an interim council – the ‘Revolutionary Committee’ – to replace Hadi and his government. This is condemned by the UN Security Council. Hadi flees to Aden in southern Yemen.
    • UNSC renews sanctions initiated in 2014.
  • March, 2015 – ISIS carries out first major attacks in the country, involving suicide bombings in major Shi’ite mosques in the capital. 137 dead.
    • As Houthis try to seize control of the entire country, Hadi flees to Saudi Arabia.
    • Saudi-led coalition (code-named Operation Decisive Storm) involvement begins, including air strikes targeting Houthi-held territory.
  • August, 2015 – Yemen’s key seaport (al-Hudaydah) is destroyed in a bombing, creating a huge obstacle to the receipt of food and aid into the country.
  • September, 2015 – Hadi returns to Aden.
  • April, 2016 – UN-led talks between Houthi-led forces and Hadi government are initiated.
  • October, 2016 – Saudi-coalition bombing kills 155 during an air raid, which strikes during a funeral procession in the capital of Sana’a.
  • January, 2017 – the US carries out its first air strikes targeting terrorist operatives under President Trump. Civil conflict persists, albeit with the sides largely being at a deadlock.
  • February, 2017 – UNSC adopts Resolution 2343. This further extends the sanctions in place until March 2018.
  • March, 2017 – UN calls the humanitarian situation in Yemen the world’s largest crisis of its kind, with 18 million in need of urgent assistance.
  • May, 2017 – missiles are launched by Houthi forces into Saudi territory, allegedly targeting a missile at the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
  • June, 2017 –Cholera epidemic breaks out, killing over 2,000 people and impacting approximately 900,000 others.
    • UNSC releases a presidential statement condemning and calling for further action in relation to the humanitarian situation in Yemen; this being the first strong statement produced by the Council in over a year.
    • UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien issues a statement, noting Yemen is “on the brink of collapse” in light of the persisting humanitarian crisis.
  • July, 2017 – United States’ House of Representatives votes to draw back US military intervention in Yemen, having shown support to Saudi Arabia and conducted drone strikes throughout the Yemeni conflict.
  • October, 2017 –The UN announces plan to initiate an investigation into potential war crimes occurring amidst the Yemeni civil conflict.
    • A $36 million dollar humanitarian aid initiative is launched by the World Bank and UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FOA) to provide immediate assistance to the millions affected by ongoing food insecurity in Yemen.
    • 29 Yemeni civilians are killed in an airstrike on a hotel near the Saudi border, with the strike allegedly conducted by Saudi forces.
  • November, 2017 – The Saudi-led coalition block the supply of aid into Yemen, blockading ports and air services into key centers such as Aden and the capital Sanaa. The blockade persists for three weeks.
    • ISIS claim responsibility for a suicide bombing in the port city of Aden, killing 7 and injuring 12.
    • Late November: the fragile deadlock begins to splinter. Conflict between Houthi forces and Saleh supporters heightens.
  • 2nd December, 2017 – Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh makes a televised speech, vowing to “turn the page” and suggesting a willingness to engage in peace talks with Saudi Arabia to end the conflict. This is seen as a controversial move to ‘sideline’ Houthi rebels.
  • 6th December, 2017 – Saleh is assassinated after Houthi fighters’ allegedly attacked his convoy at a military checkpoint near the capital, Sanaa.

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