The Saudi-UAE coalition launched multiple airstrikes in Sanaa on Monday, following their interception of two Houthi ballistic missiles aimed at southern Yemen and Riyadh on Saturday. Al Jazeera news stated this conflict is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in the eyes of the U.N.
Residents detailed the moment of the attack, where “a number of sensitive sites including the presidential palace compound, the school and an airbase close to Sanaa airport were hit, and loud explosions were heard across the city,” according to Aziz El Yaakoubi and Lisa Barrington of Reuters.
An article by BBC News found “about 80% of the population – 24 million people – need humanitarian assistance and protection,” because of this war. BBC News also found that 100,000 deaths have been recorded so far by the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) as of late 2019.
“A 2015 U.N. Security Council report estimates that the Houthi movement includes 75,000 armed fighters. However, if unarmed loyalists are taken into account, they could number between 100,000 and 120,000,” according to Myriam Renaud, an investigator for The Conversation.
The conflict arose during the Arab Spring of 2011 when President Ali Abdullah Saleh was relinquished from power and replaced by Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, said BBC news. Hadi was unable to control issues such as military attacks and food security according to the BBC news.
Hadi’s shortcomings as president allowed Houthi forces to eventually gain control over the northern Yemeni province of Saada and the capital Sanaa by 2015, causing Hadi to flee to the safety of Saudi Arabia.
It was speculated that Iran (with a Shia majority population) supported the Houthi with military assistance during their coup, said BBC. Consequently, Saudia Arabia and other Sunni Arab states merged into the Saudi-UAE coalition as a counter-organization of the Iranians and Houthi reported BBC news.
The United States, said BBC News, were also reported to support the coalition by providing non-physical assistance and information, the U.K. and France also aiding the coalition.
Religious differences between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims of Yemen played a heavy hand in determining the course of the war. According to Renaud, before becoming a republic in 1962, Yemen (more specifically northern Yemen) was ruled under a monarchy by a subdivision of Shiites called the Zaydi.
The Sunnis make up the majority of Muslims in Yemen at 65% of the population, according to Renaud, and the Shiites make up the smaller 35%, but the majority of individuals following Shia beliefs fall within the Zaydi party, including the opposition, the Houthis.
The Houthis are unpopular amongst many Yemenis because they are believed to want to recreate the rigid Zaydi monarchy, said Renaud.
The Houthi attack marked the fifth anniversary of Saudi Arabian presence in the war, but also the devastating relapse of fighting after months of mutual non-violence said Al Jazeera.
Although Monday’s airstrikes, fortunately, did not kill anyone, “almost 18 million do not have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation…and almost 20 million people lack access to adequate healthcare,” according to BBC findings.
The recent spread of coronavirus also raises fears outside of the war for the people of Yemen. The World Health Organization, said Al Jazeera, has not determined any cases of coronavirus in Yemen thus far, though individuals like the U.N. Yemen Envoy, Martin Griffiths, said, “Yemen needs its leaders to focus every minute of their time on averting and mitigating the potentially disastrous consequences of a COVID-19 outbreak,” according to Yaakoubi.
While the Saudi and Houthi forces did plan a ceasefire for COVID-19, Yaakoubi said, the cease was ignored upon Saturday’s events.
The crisis for civilians evidently goes far beyond the war.