Yemen Civil War
[Yemen, the Middle East]
In January 2011, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh attempted to amend the country’s constitution to enable himself to run for a third successive term in office. Saleh had already been in power for thirty-three years by this point. Having ruled the northern Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) since 1978 until its unification with the erstwhile southern republic, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), in 1990, he then became the first leader of the unified Republic of Yemen. Characterised by an elaborate spoils system which guaranteed continued support within political and military circles, Saleh’s rule over the YAR saw the increasing centralisation of power in the General People’s Congress (GPC) – a civil society organisation founded in 1982 to allegedly represent all interests in the country (political parties were illegal at the time). The centralisation of power only became more acute after unification, as nascent oil revenues conferred upon the state the opportunity to extend patronage networks to ensure the continuation of Saleh’s rule.
The President’s attempt to extend this state of affairs in 2011 came just a month after Mohamed Bouazizi – a Tunisian street vendor who had seen his wares confiscated by government officials – set himself alight, sparking widespread protests against autocratic governments across the Middle East. Spurred on in part by the ostensible success of protests in Tunisia and Egypt, Yemenis took to the streets of the capital Sana’a to demonstrate for change. The entrance to the city’s university was renamed Taghyeer (Change) Square, and similar ‘Change Squares’ – occupied by peaceful, independent youth – soon followed in major towns and cities across the country. Saleh attempted to placate the protesters by offering further decentralisation, increasing the salary of security personnel by a third, and promising not to run in the 2013 Presidential Election. Despite these overtures, however, the demonstrations continued.
On 18 March 2011, things changed. Several heavily armed men in civilian clothes opened fire on demonstrators at Sana’a’s Taghyeer Square. Security personnel did little to prevent the massacre, which left 45 dead (including three children), prompting splits in the armed forces and the political establishment. Brigadier Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar committed his forces to protecting the protesters, while the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) – a coalition of opposition parties formed in 2003 as a counterweight to Saleh’s dominant GPC – joined in the demonstrations. Fighting between protesters and counter-protesters began to increase until, in April, tensions erupted into full-scale clashes between elite forces on both sides. The violence prompted the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) to broker a transition agreement which would see Saleh step down from the Presidency.
It was the failure of this agreement to ensure a successful transfer of power, coupled with the bungled ideological short-sightedness of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) policy stipulations, which sparked renewed protests against the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in July 2014. Taking advantage of popular discontent with the Hadi government’s neoliberal economic policies and its inability to affect any significant societal changes during the period of transition, a Zaydi revivalist movement stormed the country’s capital in September. Ansar Allah, better known as the ‘Houthis’ after the tribe of its founder, have controlled most of the north of the country ever since, despite the sustained, catastrophic intervention of the Saudi-led coalition which intervened in favour of Hadi in March 2015.
Coalition air strikes have accounted for at least 60% of civilian deaths in the conflict while failing to remove the Houthi hold over large swathes of the country, despite five years of aerial bombardment. The death toll has now risen well beyond 100,000, decimating the country’s healthcare facilities and thereby exacerbating outbreaks of cholera, diphtheria and dysentery which had already plagued the country prior to the conflict. Add to this the unmeasurable effect of the novel coronavirus outbreak on the Gulf’s poorest country, the sustained blockade of the port of Hodeidah in a country which imports 70% of its food requirements, and the continued operation of AQAP militants throughout the country and it is unsurprising that 80% of the country is deemed by the UN to be in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. The recent split in the Saudi-led coalition – which has seen the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) break away from forces loyal to Hadi’s government (which is still supported by Riyadh), to declare self-rule over a large proportion of the country’s south – is just the latest guarantee that the end of the conflict is not yet anywhere near in sight.
Where: Yemen, Southern Arabian Peninsula
Population: 29.8 million
Factions: Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi-led government, and the Houthi armed group
Refugees & Asylum Seekers: At least 264,921 refugees and 9,557 asylum seekers. (UNHCR)
People in need of assistance: 24 million people in need of assistance (UNHCR)
The Key Actors
An Islamic armed movement representing 25% of the minority Zaydi sect, mainly located in north western Yemen. The movement was founded by Hussein Bader-El Din Al Houthi in 1990. In 2014, Houthis led the protests against Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government demanding his resignation. Consequently, the protests increased the tensions between the Houthis and Hadi’s government resulting in the current civil war. Houthis assert government control over Yemen. Currently, Houthis forces are based in the capital San’aa and have taken over the cities of Sa’adah, Al Hudaydah, Amran, Dahmar and Ibb.
Fearing Britain’s expanding influence in the south of the country, the Ottomans exploit local dissatisfaction with the inept rule of the Zaydi Imamate to return to Yemen. The southern highlands and Tihama are taken easily, with the northern highlands resisting more fiercely.
The new link between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea greatly increases traffic through the Bab al-Mandab strait between Yemen and the Horn of Africa
Imam Yahya, who had driven the Ottomans from the northern highlands by 1911, takes advantage of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War to establish the Muttawakilite Kingdom over much of northern Yemen.
Muttawakilite ruler Imam Badr is overthrown in a republican coup d’état which establishes the Yemen Arab Republic in the north of Yemen. After eight years of fighting, the republicans emerge victorious over the pro-Imam royalists.
Britain withdraws from the south after years of a pro-independence insurgency, and its former territories unite as the People’s republic of Yemen. A communist coup renames the south the People’s Democractic Republic of Yemen and reorients it towards the Soviet bloc. Ali Abdallah Saleh becomes president of North Yemen.
After years of skirmishes between – and political assassinations within – the two states, the discovery of commercial quantities of oil encourages the two countries to unite. Ali Abdullah Saleh is declared president with Ali Salem al-Beedh the vice president.
A Zaydi revivalist movement called the ‘Believing Youth’ is founded in the northern province of Sa’ada. This would later become the Houthi Movement.
Tensions resulting from the unification of polities with very different political outlooks erupt in a brief civil war. Vice president al-Beedh attempts to secede from the north. Saleh’s forces defeat the secessionists by 7 July; Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi is made the new vice president.
Disaffection with the perceived marginalisation of sada (descendants of prophet Muhammad) in the country’s politics erupt in six wars between the Houthi Movement and the Yemeni government. The brutal government crackdown widens the Houthis’ support base. The sixth war, labelled ‘Scorched Earth’, sees the first involvement of Saudi air and land forces in support of the government. A ceasefire is declared in 2010, with the Houthis remaining in control of most of Sa’ada Governorate.
A merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of Al-Qa’ida creates AQAP.
The impact of the Arab Spring risings is felt in Yemen as thousands of protesters demand jobs, an end to corruption and the fall of president Saleh’s government. On 18 March, fifty demonstrators are shot by snipers – the ‘Friday of Dignity’ massacre. Three months later, Saleh is wounded during Friday prayers. By the end of the year, a UN-backed transfer of power agreement is signed by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Elections confirm the former vice president Hadi as the new president for a two-year transitional period. Hadi stood unopposed.
Yemen’s various political factions were brought together in a conference of 565 members to discuss an agreement which would form the basis of a new constitution. Nine committees were established to discuss 9 key issues: good governance, the Southern question, Sa’ada, state building, military and security, development, rights and freedoms, independent entities, and reconciliation and transitional justice.
In compliance with IMF demands, president Hadi raises diesel prices. The suddenness of the increase angers many, leading to widespread demonstrations against the lack of material improvements witnessed under the two-year transitional regime.
After taking control of Amran in June, a new alliance between Saleh’s supporters and the Houthis takes control of the capital Sana’a in September.
After consolidating their control over the capital, the Houthis demand that Hadi appoints numerous Houthi-approved candidates to senior positions in key institutions. Hadi resigns and is placed under house arrest.
The Houthis make a Constitutional Declaration, appointing a presidential council to manage a transitional government for two years. As the Houthis begin to move further south, Hadi flees to Aden, declaring it his temporary capital.
Houthi ground and air offensives against Aden see a beleaguered president Hadi flee to Riyadh, where he will remain for the majority of the conflict. Chaos reigns as the Islamic State carries out its first major intervention in the country – two suicide bombings against Shia mosques in Sana’a, killing 137 people. A Saudi-led coalition launches operation ‘Decisive Storm’ – a series of air strikes against Houthi targets. A naval blockade is also imposed in an attempt to restore Hadi to power. The majority of the world’s financial institutions, including the World Bank, suspend activities in the country.
The extensive bombing campaign conducted by the Saudi-coalition is ostensibly ended, to be replaced by an operation to “protect civilians and combat terrorism”. In reality, little changes.
The leader of AQAP, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, is killed in a US drone strike in Hadramawt.
Saudi-coalition bombing kills 155 in an air raid, which strikes during a funeral procession in the capital of Sana’a.
UAE-led offensive from Bab al-Mandab strait eventually returns the majority of Mocha to pro-government forces.
A cholera epidemic kills over 2,000 people and impacts approximately 900,000 others.
UNSC releases a presidential statement 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.
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 conflict.
The UN announces plans to initiate an investigation into potential war crimes occurring during the 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.
The Saudi-led coalition prevents the supply of aid into Yemen, blockading ports and air services into key centres such as Aden and the capital Sana’a. The blockade persists for three weeks.
ISIS claims responsibility for a suicide bombing in the port city of Aden, killing 7 and injuring 12.
Late in the month, tensions begin to rise between the Houthis and their erstwhile enemy-turned-ally, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
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. Some interpret this as an attempt to side-line the Houthi rebels.
Saleh is assassinated after Houthi militants allegedly attacked his convoy at a military checkpoint near the capital, Sana’a.
Southern Yemeni separatists – backed by the United Arab Emirates – seize control of Aden.
Saudi air defences shoot down seven ballistic missiles launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia—three of these missiles are shot down as they fly over Riyadh. The debris kills an Egyptian resident in Riyadh – the first death in the Saudi capital during the conflict. This is the third time in five months that missiles have flown over Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE pledge nearly $1bn in aid for Yemen at UN donor conference. This comes a day after a Saudi-conducted airstrike kills several children in the port city of Hodeidah.
The World Health Organization warns that Yemen is in significant danger of a third major cholera outbreak.
A bomb kills 40 children returning by bus from a trip to the Northern Saudi governate. The Saudi coalition responsible for the bombing blames incorrect intelligence and admits that it was a mistake. Munitions reports reveal that the bomb was sold to the coalition as part of the US arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
Two Saudi airstrikes leave 26 children and 4 women dead. In the meantime, Houthis recapture parts of the Hodeidah province.
Pro-Hadi forces claim full control of the Sa’ada district. The UN seeks to negotiate a ceasefire, after months of fighting around the key Houthi-held port of Hodeidah and a mounting humanitarian crisis.
Though this doesn’t signal the end of the UAE’s involvement in the war, as it continues to support locally trained forces and mercenaries in coordination with Saudi Arabia, the withdrawal of its own troops is symbolically important. The UAE does, however, maintain a military presence in Mukalla for ‘counterterrorism’ purposes.
The United Nations’ food agency and Yemen’s Houthi rebels announce that they have reached a deal to resume food deliveries to rebel-controlled parts of the war-torn country after suspending such aid in June. The WFP halted some aid to Sana’a on June 20 out of concern that food was being diverted from vulnerable people, but said it would maintain nutrition programmes for malnourished children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. The partial suspension of aid affected around 850,000 people, according to the UN. Saturday’s deal included a biometric database of civilians in need of aid to guarantee “effective and efficient distribution” and to “benefit the most needy”.
In four days of days of fighting between the southern separatists and the president’s forces, 40 people are killed and 260 injured. As the separatists make gains, the Saudi-led coalition intervenes to defend the government, hitting an empty field at the presidential palace after the separatists took control of it. The separatists leave the palace but remain in control of Aden.
Southern separatists vacate key public buildings in Aden which had recently been captured from forces loyal to President Hadi. However, they state that their forces will not quit the government military camps which allow them effective control of the city.
President Hadi urges Saudi Arabia to intervene to stop the United Arab Emirates’ backing for southern separatists, who are vying for control of the key southern city of Aden and its surrounding environs.
A Saudi-led coalition airstrike on a Yemeni prison left more than 100 people presumed dead, according to the Red Cross, disputing Saudi officials’ claims that the attack struck a rebel arms depot.
The Houthi rebels in Yemen claim responsibility for a drone attack on the oil producing areas of Saudi Arabia, taking out 6% of the world’s oil production. The United States & Saudi Arabia blame Iran, while Iran denies responsibility. A war of words follows the dramatic attack. The strikes demonstrate the remarkable vulnerability of oil facilities of central importance to the global economy and lead to a spike in energy prices. The Houthis warn of similar future strikes.
Yemen’s Houthi rebel leadership calls for an end to the country’s four-year civil war, promising to halt attacks on Saudi Arabia and expecting the same in return.
Houthi rebels release 290 prisoners, including 42 survivors of an earlier coalition airstrike which hit a prison in West Yemen, killing more than 150 people.
US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper authorises the deployment of additional forces to the region.
Yemen’s exiled government and southern secessionists agree to a preliminary deal. The Riyadh Agreement, brokered by Saudi Arabia with support from the United Arab Emirates, expands the political influence of southern secessionists in return for their forces returning to the ranks of the Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthi insurgency.
The United Arab Emirates announces the completion of the process of withdrawing its troops from Yemen’s southern port city of Aden, as part of a deal brokered with Saudi Arabia to end a power struggle between southern separatists and the internationally-backed government of President Hadi.
A database project that tracks violence announces that the Yemen civil war has resulted in more than 100,000 deaths since 2015. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, announces that this death toll includes more than 12,000 people killed in attacks that directly targeted civilians.
At least 4,000 Sudanese soldiers have been killed in Yemen since 2015 as part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthi rebels, a Houthi military spokesman claims.
The U.N. envoy for Yemen says that momentum to end the country’s devastating five-year war is building, pointing to a nearly 80 percent drop in airstrikes nationwide in the last two weeks and a strengthened ceasefire in the key port of Hodeidah.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) helps to repatriate 128 rebels from Saudi Arabia to Yemen. This comes two days after the Saudi-led coalition said they would release 200 Houthi prisoners and allow those requiring medical assistance to be flown out of Yemen’s rebel-held capital.
A delegation from Yemen’s Houthi rebel group holds talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Oman, according to Houthi-run TV. Al-Masirah television announces that the talks tackled the humanitarian situation in Yemen and the “blockade” imposed on the war-torn country.
A dozen humanitarian organizations in southern Yemen suspend operations following a string of targeted attacks, while the country’s rebel-led health ministry announces that severe outbreaks of swine flu and dengue fever have killed close to 200 people since October.
The suspension of aid work comes after unknown assailants fired rocket-propelled grenades at three aid organizations in the southwestern province of Dhale over the weekend, according to the U.N. Humanitarian Office in Yemen, wounding a security guard and damaging several office buildings.
At least 17 people are killed in the shelling of a busy market. The UN condemns the attack, which took place in a region currently under Houthi control.
A top Houthi rebel criticises France’s role in the Yemeni conflict, adding that the French legal system was turning a blind eye to the coalition attacks, which have killed thousands of civilians. France has provided logistical support to the Gulf coalition, as well as selling billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to the Gulf countries. France maintains that these weapons are only being used for defensive purposes by Saudi Arabia and its allies.
An attack on a military training camp in western Yemen kills dozens of government soldiers and wounds at least 100 others.
Yemen’s president warns the military it needs to be on high alert and ready for battle following the attack in the city of Marib.
The International Committee of the Red Cross announces that over three million people, the majority of whom are women and children, have been made homeless as a result of ongoing fighting in Yemen’s civil war.
The death toll from a suspected Houthi rebel missile attack on Yemeni government forces rises to at least 116, making it one of the bloodiest incidents in the country’s civil war and threatening to hinder the country’s fragile peace process.
Ballistic missiles hit a mosque at al-Estiqbal military camp in the central province of Marib, where soldiers had gathered for evening prayers. Pictures and video from the scene show a huge impact crater in the spot where the mosque had stood.
The UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, arrives in Yemen’s rebel-held capital in a mission to ease tensions as fighting near the capital threatens to derail the peace process.
Houthi obstructions put the world’s biggest humanitarian lifeline at risk, threatening millions with starvation. Senior officials, UN leaders and humanitarian groups meet at the European Commission in Brussels as vital aid supplies are at risk of being cut off.
The rebel group had said they would impose a 2% levy on humanitarian aid. However, in a letter seen by AFP and later confirmed by the Houthis, the group agrees to drop the demand.
A coalition spokesman confirms that a Saudi Tornado fighter jet had “fallen” while carrying out a support mission near Yemeni army units, according to Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels claim that they shot the plane down.
A Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Yemen kills more than 30 civilians, according to UN officials. The airstrikes targeting Yemen’s northern Al-Jawf province comes a day after the country’s rebel Houthi movement claimed it had shot down a coalition warplane in the same area. The attacks are widely seen as a retaliation for the downing of the fighter jet.
Meanwhile, after 7days of talks in Amman, Jordan, the UN announces an agreement between the Houthis and government forces to exchange prisoners. Around 1400 captives are expected to be released by the two sides.
Aid officials and documents revealed by The Associated Press news agency show that half of the UN aid delivery programmes to Yemen have been blocked by the Houthi rebel group, whose motive is to attain greater control over the humanitarian campaign.
Saudi Arabia announces that it has intercepted missiles it claims were aimed at civilians in Saudi cities. A spokesmen for the Saudi-led coalition blames the “Houthi militia” for a “systematic, deliberate” attack in “a flagrant defiance of international humanitarian law”.
Several weeks after he was believed to have been killed in a US strike, a speech by religious official Hamid bin Hamoud al-Tamimi confirms the death of AQAP leader Qassim al-Rimi.
The American aid agency USAID announces that it will stop delivering aid to Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen by the end of March if impediments to aid operations are not removed by the rebel group. The majority of the country’s population lives in these areas.
Houthi rebels take back control of Hazm in the northern province of al-Jawf, seizing control of the north-south 5560 road. This blow to the Saudi-led coalition sees the rebels make progress towards the central province of Marib.
The Saudi-led coalition claims to foil a “terrorist attack” on an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea, as four remotely-controlled boats were caught approaching the vessel near the port of Nishtun.
Both the internationally-backed government and the Houthi rebels announce that they will suspend any flights to areas under their control as a preventative measure against the spread of coronavirus. Only emergency travel in and out of the country is permitted.
The UAE’s branch of the Red Crescent announces the murder of two of its aid workers in Aden. Ahmed Fouad al-Yousefi and Mohamed Tareq had been kidnapped and were later found dead.
HRW, a New York-based NGO, publishes a report condemning the treatment by Saudi forces of civilians in Yemen’s eastern al-Mahra province. The report includes allegations of arbitrary arrests, illegal transfers of prisoners out of the country, and forced disappearances.
The UN urges all warring parties to cease hostilities as the 5-year anniversary of the conflict is surpassed.
Abdel Malek al-Houthi offers to swap a captured Saudi pilot and four other prisoners of war for the release of Palestinian activists detained in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is unlikely to accept as the move would increase the Houthi movement’s regional status.
Two ballistic missiles fired by the Houthi rebel group in Yemen are intercepted over the Saudi cities of Jizan and Riyadh. Falling debris from the interception leaves two civilians with minor injuries.
In retaliation for Houthi attacks on Saudi cities, around 20 air strikes are carried out on Yemen’s capital Sana’a. This attack coincides with the fifth anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the conflict.
The World Bank announces it will deliver emergency funding to help the WHO and Yemeni authorities to detect, contain and treat Covid-19.
At least five prisoners are killed in an attack on a women’s prison in the southwestern province of Taiz. Shelling by the Houthi insurgency also injured 24 people, among whom four children were included.
The Saudi-led coalition announces a unilateral two week ceasefire in Yemen citing ‘humanitarian reasons’ as the coronavirus crisis looms. The Houthi insurgency vows to continue fighting.
Elsewhere, the Trudeau government in Canada lifts its suspension on the export of arms to Saudi Arabia. The Canadian government renegotiates a multibillion-dollar contract for the sale of light armoured vehicles to the Gulf state.
Yemen’s supreme national emergency committee announces the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the country. The infected patient is stable and all fellow employees are quarantined.
Four journalists are sentenced to death by the Houthi rebel group for “espionage” and “treason”. The four given death sentences were Abdel-Khaleq Amran, Hareth Hamid, Akram al-Walidi and Tawfiq al-Mansouri.
The UN envoy to Yemen joins his counterparts in Syria, Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon in urging for an end to conflict in a bid to focus efforts on fighting the coronavirus.
Yemen’s rebel-held capital begins a large clean-up operation after heavy rainfall led to floodwaters causing immense damage to the city’s infrastructure. Three days of rain had seen cars, shops and market stalls overturned.
Meanwhile, 33-year-old Emad Abdelqawi al-Mansouri – a Yemeni man who attacked a Spanish dance troupe with a knife in Riyadh – is executed by Saudi authorities.
The United Nations Security Council backs a call from the UN secretary-general urging all warring parties in Yemen to cease fighting to focus on tackling the coronavirus outbreak.
The UN reports that at least 7 deaths and 85 injuries have resulted from flash flooding across northern governorates in mid-April.
The Saudi-led coalition announces that it will extend its unilateral ceasefire by another month. Regardless, fighting continues.
Yemen’s UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) declares a state of emergency and announces that it will self-govern the city of Aden and surrounding provinces. The move is condemned by the internationally-backed government of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and flies in the face of last year’s Riyadh Agreement.
Authorities in Hadramawt, Shabwa, al-Mahra, Abyan and Socotra reject the STC’s announcement of self-rule as a “coup”.
The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, asserts that nearly $90m is needed immediately to help the 3.5 million displaced persons in war-torn Yemen. The call comes as coronavirus threatens to add a new dynamic to the humanitarian crisis being experience in the country.
The Saudi cabinet praises the coalition’s unilateral one-month ceasefire extension in Yemen, while calling on the Southern Transitional Council to rescind the state of emergency it declared days prior.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN announce that they are hopeful a possible exchange of 1,000 prisoners between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government could soon take place.
The Yemeni health minister confirms the country’s first two fatalities from the coronavirus. The deaths occurred in the southern port city of Aden, where five more cases are also confirmed.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry releases a statement condemning the UAE’s Middle East policy as “destructive” and “hostile”, referring specifically to the ongoing conflicts in Yemen and Syria.
The Saudi-backed government and the Southern Transitional Council agree to a truce which ends fighting on the island of Socotra. Meanwhile, Aden reports a further two confirmed coronavirus cases, with Taiz confirming its first instance of the virus.
The first positive test for the coronavirus in Yemen’s Houthi-held northern territory is reported. A Somali national found dead in a hotel in Sana’a brings the country’s confirmed cases to 22, with 4 deaths.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces that the country will commit to a further $225 million of funding to the UN World Program’s operations in Yemen – the majority of which will be used in the south of the country.
The World Health Organisation has ordered its staff to halt work in areas of Yemen held by the Houthis amid concerns they are covering up a coronavirus outbreak in the country’s capital, Sana’a. There have so far been two confirmed cases and one death in the Houthi held northern territories, while the Saudi-backed government which operates in much of the south has reported 34 cases with seven deaths.
The first significant clashes since the Southern Transitional Council declared self-rule in south Yemen on April 25 erupt, as two government and two STC soldiers are killed in fighting near Zinjibar. The flare-up comes as the Saudi-backed government declares Aden “infested” with coronavirus after a rise in cases. Travel outside of the port city is banned as the number of confirmed cases in areas under government control increases to 56, with nine deaths.
Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy to Yemen, delivers draft proposals for a nationwide ceasefire to the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels. The proposals include plans for the implementation of humanitarian and economic relief measures as the country aims to tackle a growing number of coronavirus cases.
Nearly 400 patients exhibiting coronavirus-like symptoms die in the port city of Aden in the space of a week, according to the charity Save the Children. The official death toll from the virus is reportedly just 13.
Meanwhile, in the southern governorate of al-Bayda, the government claims to have killed numerous Houthi fighters and wounded others.
Clashes between southern separatists and pro-government forces in Abyan province enter their sixth consecutive day as fourteen soldiers – ten of whom belonged to pro-government forces – are killed in clashes near the governorate’s capital Zinjibar.
Meanwhile, off the country’s southern coast in the Gulf of Aden, a chemical tanker flying the Union Jack is attacked. The assault is successfully fended off by the ship’s armed guard.
Over 150 human rights groups call upon the UN to help quash the death sentences given to four journalists in the capital Sana’a. The four men were sentenced to death in the Houthi-controlled north of the country after being accused of spying, following a five-year prison term.
Al Jazeera reports that numerous families in the southern port city of Aden have lost family members allegedly disappeared by forces backed by the Saudi and UAE governments.
The spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Jens Laerke, warns that the health system in Yemen is on the brink of collapse amid reports of aid workers needing to turn prospective patients away due to a lack of medical supplies.
Reports emerge of cemeteries in the southern port city of Aden overflowing with graves, raising doubts about official coronavirus figures which report 222 cases and 42 deaths.
A barrage of missile fire aimed at Yemeni government fighters in the central governorate of Marib leaves at least 7 people dead. The attack comes a day after the formal end to the scarcely observed ceasefire announced by the Saudi-backed government in April, with the government attributing responsibility to Houthi fighters.
Meanwhile, a Houthi drone is apparently shot down en route to the Saudi border city of Najran, with coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki accusing it of targeting civilians in the city.
Saudi Arabian state press confirms that the country will host a virtual donors’ conference with the UN in order to attempt to raise $2.4bn for war-torn Yemen. The effort comes amid concerns that the coronavirus could engulf the country.
The UN joins Saudi Arabia in urging countries across the globe to donate to help alleviate the crisis in Yemen. The call comes as some three-quarters of UN operations in the country are set to be cut amid criticisms of the Houthi rebels’ propensity to disrupt operations in the areas of the country in their control. Saudi Arabia hopes to raise $2.41bn in aid in a donor conference organised this week, as coronavirus continues to spread across the war-ravaged country.
Meanwhile, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition Turki al-Maliki confirms that two Houthi drones have been shot down whilst allegedly on their way to attack Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait.
The donor conference, co-hosted by Saudi Arabia and the UN, fails to achieve its goal of raising $2.41bn to help mitigate the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. Instead, $1.35bn is pledged, with Saudi Arabia offering $500m, the UK pledging $200m, Germany promising just under $140m, and the United States committing to pay $225m.
The humanitarian International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warns that COVID-19 may “set in motion a vicious cycle of lost income, deepening poverty and hunger” across the world, calling upon people to act in order to prevent this. The drop in remittances in Yemen consequent upon reduced movement during the pandemic has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis there, with 70% of the country reliant on money earned abroad.
The United Nations issues a plea to countries around the world asking for urgent funds for war-torn Yemen. If a fundraising target of $2.4bn cannot be reached, over three-quarters of the 41 UN run programmes in the country may need to be cut. This is despite the devastation currently being wrought by the spread of coronavirus across the country.
Turki al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi insurgency in Yemen, claims that the country’s forces have successfully prevented an attempted shelling of the southern Saudi province of Najran. The Saudis allege that the Houthis were behind the attack.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi criticises the UN’s decision to remove the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen from a blacklist, claiming that it gives the coalition a “free pass” to continue killing children in Yemen.
The Saudi government is understood to have proposed a package of measures intended to bring an end to the latest round of tensions in Yemen, Al Jazeera reports. It calls on the Southern Transitional Council (STC) to rescind their recent declaration of emergency rule over large swathes of southern Yemen, in addition to a ceasefire in the central hotspot of Abyan governorate. STC forces would be redeployed in Abyan after a new cabinet was formed including STC members.
Fighting breaks out on the island of Socotra between erstwhile allies in Yemen’s civil war, the UAE-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) and forces loyal to Saudi-backed President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. No casualties are recorded thus far.
The Saudi-backed Yemeni government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi accuses the UAE-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) of “staging a coup” on the island of Socotra. The Indian Ocean island is strategically situated at the gateway to the Bab al-Mandab strait.
The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen announces a ceasefire agreement between the forces loyal to the government of internationally recognised President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC). Fighting will cease in the major hotspot of Abyan governorate, with de-escalation also set to take place in other regions. A meeting will also be held between the rival factions with a view to implementing last year’s failed power-sharing Riyadh Agreement.
The Houthi rebel forces fighting in Yemen’s civil war launch an aerial attack on the Saudi Arabian capital city of Riyadh, targeting the defence ministry and a military base with armed drones and ballistic missiles. Saudi authorities have condemned the action as a terrorist attack.
Mark Lowcock, the humanitarian chief at the UN, warns of Yemen potentially falling “off the cliff” unless it can obtain substantial foreign financial assistance. The warning comes amid confirmation that the mortality rate from coronavirus in the country is around 5 times the global average, with one in four confirmed cases being fatal.
The Saudi-backed President of Yemen, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, calls upon forces fighting on behalf of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) to stop fighting and abide by the Riyadh power-sharing agreement. It is the beleaguered President’s first public comment since the STC declared self-rule in the south in April this year.
Two civilians are left dead and at least four more injured after the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen launched a renewed offensive against Houthi-held governorates in the north of the country. The air strikes bring to an end a unilateral ceasefire declared by Saudi Arabia 3 months ago and have allegedly come as a response to Houthi missile attacks on Saudi cities.
The United Kingdom is set to once again sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, despite a 2019 court ruling that the licensing of arms sales to the kingdom was unlawful as it did not account for the humanitarian risks posed to Yemeni civilians. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), the body which brought the lawsuit in question, condemns the decision.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthis in Yemen claims to have destroyed two boats allegedly rigged with explosives in the Red Sea. Turki al-Maliki, the spokesman for the coalition, said that the boats were attempting to perform terrorist acts in the Bab al-Mandab strait in order to disrupt international shipping. The Houthis, however, accuse the coalition forces of a “major aggression”, alleging that the two boats were civilian vessels.
Houthi officials agree to allow the UN to approach an abandoned oil tanker which may explode and cause an environmental disaster in the region. The vessel has 1.1 million barrels of crude oil on board which could rupture and devastate the local fishing industry.
Yahya Sarea, the military spokesman for the Houthi rebel group, releases a statement confirming an overnight operation conducted against targets in the south of Saudi Arabia. In addition to hitting an oil facility near the city of Jizan, the group claims to have attacked warplanes and other military targets near the Yemeni border.
At least seven civilians are killed in Yemen’s northern governorate of Al-Jawf following airstrikes conducted by the Saudi-led coalition fighting against Houthi forces which control the area. Houthi forces claimed that nine civilians were killed.
Following the killing of at least 11 civilians in a Saudi airstrike in Yemen’s northern al-Jawf governorate, the UN’s Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths calls for a “thorough & transparent investigation” into the incident. One of the victims was a 15-day-old baby.
The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organization and Children’s Fund warn of further food shortages in Yemen in the next six months. The report warns that those facing “acute food insecurity” may increase from two million to over three million.
The separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) rescinds its declaration of self-rule in Yemen, promising to implement the power-sharing Riyadh Agreement with the internationally recognised government of Abdrabbush Mansour Hadi. The uniting of the former rival groups comes after intervention from Saudi and UAE officials, who are searching for a united front against Houthi rebels in the north of the country.
Meanwhile, at least 14 people die after heavy rainfall leads to widespread flooding in the west of the country.
At least 17 people are killed and several more injured as flash flooding hits the northern Yemeni province of Marib. Caused by storms around the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, flooding has also hit the governorates of Sana’a, Hodeidah, Amran, Sa’ada, Hadramout and Taiz.
At least nine children are killed and seven more wounded following air raids in northern Yemen. The attacks, inflicted by the Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthi rebels who control large swaths of the country’s north, have been condemned by the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Lisa Grande, who described them as “totally unacceptable”.
The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly worked around laws regulating the sale of US arms in order to pass a shipment worth around $8.1bn to Saudi Arabia. Pompeo issued an emergency certification in 2019 to advance the sale without the approval of Congress, apparently to avoid scrutiny around the potential use of the weapons in Yemen.
At least 172 people have died in flash flooding across Yemen this month according to the UN. In the capital city Sana’a, buildings in the UNESCO-listed Old City are also collapsing under the strain of the heavy rains.
Eleven government troops are reportedly killed while trying to re-take rebel held areas of Al-Jawf governorate in northern Yemen. Clashes are also recorded in Marib and casualties are registered on both sides.
International concern over an oil tanker moored off the west coast of Yemen grows as it slowly leaks oil into the sea. The UN is urging all of the warring parties in the country to work towards the prevention of an environmental disaster.
Yemen’s southern separatist group, the Southern Transitional Council (STC), suspends its participation in the Saudi-sponsored peace initiative based on the Riyadh agreement. The group cites violations of the agreement’s terms by other parties and the collapse of public services in the south of the country as reasons for its suspension of talks.
Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is sacked as the commander of joint forces in the Saudi-led coalition combating the Houthi insurgency in northern Yemen. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman announced the action in response to corruption allegations against he and another senior official.
According to investigators backed by the UN, over 30 teenage girls were recruited by the Yemeni rebel group the Houthis to operate as spies, medics, guards and fighters. The report also criticised foreign actors such as the UK, Canada, France, Iran and the US for perpetuating the conflict via arms sales to the warring parties.
Yemen’s rebel Houthi group, which controls large swathes of the country’s north, claims to have struck a key target in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh. It is unclear what the alleged target was and Saudi officials are yet to confirm or deny that any such attack has taken place.
Houthi positions in the Yemeni capital Sana’a are targeted in 11 air raids launched by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in the country. It initially appears that there are no casualties in the strikes, which follow an alleged Houthi attack on the Saudi capital Riyadh.
The European Parliament encourages the member states of the EU to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia. The brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the ongoing war in Yemen are cited as reasons to restrict arms exports to the middle eastern country.
In talks held in Switzerland, the rival factions in Yemen’s ongoing conflict are discussing a potential prisoner swap deal. Held under the aegis of the UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, the meeting is intended to facilitate the release of as many as 1,400 detainees.
The UN cuts vital aid to 300 health centres in Yemen due to a lack of funding. The UN estimates that it requires over $3bn to fund aid efforts in the war-torn country. It has so far received less than a third of this requirement.
The Saudi-backed Yemeni government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi agrees to the largest prisoner swap of the country’s five-year-long civil war, as over 1,000 captives are exchanged with the Houthi rebel group. Around 400 government fighters are released by the Houthis, with nearly 700 being freed in the other direction.
After a flare-up in fighting near Yemen’s main port of Hodeidah, the UN calls for an immediate end to fighting in accordance with a UN-brokered ceasefire governing the area. Dozens of people have reportedly been killed in recent clashes.
Over 200 supporters of the Houthi rebel armed group in Yemen have been released from captivity alongside 2 US citizens. The move appears to be part of a prisoner-swap which has seen Oman and Saudi Arabia undertaken mediation roles.
Over one thousand prisoners are due to be exchanged in a large-scale prisoner swap between forces loyal to the Yemeni government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Houthi rebel group that has been fighting for 5 years to overthrow him. It is hoped that the swap will be a foundation stone to talks for a permanent political solution to the crisis.
The warring factions in Yemen’s ongoing civil war have completed the largest prisoner-swap in the last 5 years, as 1,081 people are exchanged people pro- and anti-government armed groups.
A UN report warns of an impending food security crisis in Yemen, as it points to record levels of acute malnutrition in children across the country. The ongoing conflict has combined with the global coronavirus pandemic, floods and a lack of aid funding to create a dire health crisis.
The UN has warned that Yemen is among four countries apparently at a high risk of severe food insecurity. Along with Burkina Faso, South Suden and Nigeria, Yemen could potentially fall into famine within three months.
UN World Food Program (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley has warned that Yemen is on a “countdown… to a catastrophe” in a speech given to the UN Security Council. The body once more issued a plea for more funding, as 80% of the country’s 30 million people are in need of assistance.
A report released by Oxfam reveals that G20 members have sold around $17bn worth of weaponry to Saudi Arabia since 2015, when it began its intervention in the Yemeni Civil War, a figure which eclipses the amount donated to the country in the form of humanitarian aid by a factor of three.
As the outgoing US administration mulls over the prospect of assigning the Houthi armed group in Yemen the label of “foreign terrorist organisation”, international rights groups have urged against the proposed move, warning that it would worsen the already dire humanitarian situation in the country.
The Houthi rebel group fighting against the Saudi-backed government in Yemen claims to have struck a distribution station for Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, Saudi Aramco. A missile hit the site in Jeddah on Monday. Saudi officials claim that distribution of petroleum products has been unaffected.
The Houthi rebel group has granted the UN permission to assess an oil tanker stranded off Yemen’s coast in the Red Sea. The deteriorating tanker has been threatening to spill as many as 1.1 million barrels of crude oil into the sea. The visit is expected to take place by early February.
Houthi forces have allegedly killed at least eight soldiers in the central governorate of Marib, according to a military spokesman for the group. A ballistic missile apparently struck the Tadawin camp where Saudi forces are based. Saudi Arabia has declined to comment on the reports.
The shelling of an industrial compound in the key Yemeni port of Hodeidah has taken the lives of at least eight people according to the internationally recognised government of the country, who have blamed the Houthi rebel group for the attach. Those who were killed were workers at the compound.
A Singapore-flagged oil tanker is attacked by a boat packed with explosives in the Saudi port city of Jeddah. The apparent terrorist attack caused no casualties and resulted only in a small fire, with rumours that Yemen’s Houthi rebels may have been involved in the operation.
The International Rescue Committee’s annual list of countries which are most at risk of experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe in the following year places Yemen at its summit for the third year running. The country continues to be at risk from continued fighting, famine and a lack of international aid funding.
Following a Saudi-brokered power-sharing deal reached last year, Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi swears in a new government. The ceremony for the swearing in of the new 24-person cabinet took place in the Saudi capital Riyadh, where the internationally-recognised President is based. Five members of the cabinet are from the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), which aims to secede from the North.
A plane carrying the newly formed Yemeni government, including prospective Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik, arrived to a ripple of gunfire and explosions at Aden’s airport. Those on board were safely transported to the presidential palace. Government officials have accused the Houthi rebels of initiating the attack.
President Hadi condemns the attack, which killed at least 26 people and wounded numerous others, as a “cowardly” act.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthi rebels in Aden carries out air raids in the capital Sana’a, following an attack on the southern port city of Aden which left 26 people dead. Sana’a International Airport was among the targets of the raid. No casualties are initially reported.
Both Houthi and pro-government spokesmen have blamed each other for a blast which struck a wedding on New Year’s Day in Yemen’s western city of Hodeidah. Five women were killed in the explosion as well as two staff members of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Biden Administration said it would exempt almost all transactions in Houthi territory in Yemen from sanctions for one month. Biden is also considering removing Houthi rebels status as a terrorist organization.
Residents in the city of Hudaydah encounter rising hostilities between Houthis and government forces resulting in the displacement of families and damages to infrastructure.
A United Nations report estimates Yemeni government and Houthi rebels misappropriated at least $1.8bn in 2019 to support warfront causes instead of supplying citizens with salaries and essential humanitarian aid.
The civilians of Yemen and the Houthi movement played a crucial role in the Arab Spring marking a shift from revolution to the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.
US asks for Houthis to cease civilian attacks in Saudi Arabia after Biden Administration removes “foreign terrorist organization” status from the group.
A United States special envoy to Yemen has attempted to speak with Houthi leadership in push for a ceasefire and negotiation settlements.
Military tensions in Yemen have heightened. An UN special envoy claim attacks by the Houthi rebels in Marib province are threatening to internally displace tens of thousands of civilians.
The United Nations hosted a virtual pledging conference to counter the world’s worst humanitarian famine in Yemen with over a hundred government representatives in attendance. The UN raised less than half of the expected goal – a total of $1.7bn. Britain contributed £87m to the crisis, stark decrease in the £160m from last year’s donation in 2020.
Yemeni Houthis are targeting the gas-rich province of Marib, a government controlled area in North Yemen, sparking discontent from Western nations. A British Foreign Ministry Statement proclaimed, “We, the governments of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, condemn the sustained Houthi offensive on the Yemeni city of Marib and the major escalation of attacks the Houthis have conducted and claimed against Saudi Arabia”.
Houthis pursue a military offensive in the Marib governate risking the
displacement of almost 1 million Yemeni civilians due to fighting and
potential oil/fuel accessibility. The Yemeni provinces of Hajjah and Taiz
have been re-claimed by government dominant fighters, heightening the
tensions for control of Marib.
Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan announced Saudi Arabia’s peace proposal in Yemen, outlining a nationwide ceasefire backing the regional government’s authority and the opening of seaports and airports. Yemen’s recognized government has approved of the Saudi’s proposal. However, the Houthis have denied this peace proposal demanding the Saudi coalition to lift all air and sea blockades to their territories.
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