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Yemen Civil War - 2017

The past several months have seen a "dangerous escalation" of military activities with tragic consequences for the Yemeni people, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, told the Security Council during a briefing 27 January 2017 alongside UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O`Brien.

Both sides to the conflict continue to claim significant military progress in the media, "but I remain convinced that there is no possibility of a military solution." Describing "daily attacks and counter-attacks," he said the continued military activities are all the more tragic as a viable proposal for peace is on the table and within reach of both parties. "With political courage and will, the war can be stopped," he said, pressing both sides to demonstrate the political courage needed to stop the nearly two-year-long war.

Recalling that a meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia`s Foreign Minister in Riyadh on 18 December 2016, senior officials from Oman, United Arab Emirates, the United States and the United Kingdom had concluded with calls for a rapid cessation of hostilities, he said: "We are committed to ensuring that the upcoming cessation of hostilities will be durable and provide real relief to the Yemeni people."

From the beginning of the hostilities in March 2015 to 31 December 2016, 7,469 Yemenis were killed and 40,483 injured due to the conflict, he said, noting that the true number is likely to be higher. The casualty figures include more than 1,400 children killed and over 2,140 children injured. Another 1,441 children have been recruited by warring parties, some as young as eight years old.

Beyond the direct casualties of the armed conflict, there are also the so-called `silent deaths` of Yemenis that go largely unnoticed and unrecorded, he said.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which Mr. O`Brien heads up, more than two thirds of the population - an alarming 18.8 million - is in need of humanitarian and protection assistance, including an astounding 10.3 million Yemenis who require immediate assistance to save or sustain their lives. This is about the size of the entire population of Sweden and the numbers are rising, he added. Some 14 million people are currently food insecure, of whom half are severely food insecure. Roughly $2 billion is required to support the 2017 humanitarian response, targeting 10 million of the most vulnerable people in Yemen.

ntelligence Online, a Paris-based news and diplomacy publication, reported that Mohammed bin Salman sent Ahmed al-Asiri, the former military spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, to Abu Dhabi in June 2017 to meet Saleh's son, Ahmed, and discuss the possibility of forming a new government. Ahmed, a powerful former military chief who once served as ambassador to the Emirates, has been living in the UAE for the last five years. The publication also said that Mohammed bin Salman was lobbied by the UAE's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, to ditch Hadi in favour of Saleh. It added that Mohammed bin Salman had warmed to the idea of "a return to power of the former Yemeni president."

The Saudi-led coalition's easing of its blockade on famine-threatened Yemen is "a step in the right direction" but does not go far enough, the European Union and United Nations said 12 November 2017. The EU's commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, Christos Stylianides, said that more steps were needed. The UN office for the coordination of humanitarian aid, OCHA, said the coalition was still blocking desperately needed UN aid deliveries to Yemen, despite the reopening of Aden and Wadea.

The UN has listed Yemen as the world's number one humanitarian crisis, with 17 million people in need of food, seven million of whom are at risk of famine. More than 2,000 Yemenis had died in a cholera outbreak now affecting nearly one million people.

Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh once said that governing the Arabian Peninsula country was like "dancing on the heads of snakes". Saleh publicly broke off ties with the Houthis on 02 December 2017, amid intense street battles between the rival factions that led to the killing of dozens of people. In a televised statemen, the former president expressed his openness to talks with a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels, in what the fighters called "a coup" against their fragile alliance.

"Yemeni citizens have tried to tolerate the recklessness of the Houthis over the last two and half years but cannot anymore," Saleh said. "I call on our brothers in neighbouring countries to stop their aggression and lift the blockade and we will turn the page," he added.

The tactical alliance between Saleh and the Houthis had often appeared fragile, with both groups suspicious of each other's ultimate motives and sharing little ideological ground. The Houthis had gained control of most of Sanaa from Saleh's forces. Only small pockets remained. Fighters had secured key areas south of the capital, including the "very strategic" al-Mesbahi residential area, which is approximately 200 metres from Saleh's home.

Saleh was killed 04 December 2017 by Houthi rebels near the capital, Sanaa, a development expected to have major implications for the war in the Arab world's poorest country. Houthi sources said Saleh was killed by the rebels in a rocket-propelled grenade and shooting attack on his car at a checkpoint outside Sanaa. Footage circulating on social media appeared to display a body resembling Saleh, with one video showing how armed militiamen used a blanket to move the corpse into the back of a pick-up truck.

Murad Alazzany, a Yemeni political analyst and professor at Sanaa University, told Al Jazeera that Saleh's son was the UAE's "trump card". Alazzany said "The UAE has been keeping ahold of Ahmed should anything happen to his father. In that event, they plan to immediately dispatch him to Yemen to take over his [Saleh's] role".

The Huthis continued to launch ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia and improved their missile capabilities with Iranian assistance. The Huthis launched Iranian-origin missiles with an estimated range of 900 kilometers at Riyadh in November and December and at the Yanbu oil refinery in July 2017, illustrating Huthi intent to strike economic and infrastructure facilities as well as military targets in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia threatened Iran with retaliation should a Huthi missile strike a high-value Saudi target. The Huthis repeatedly threatened the UAE with a missile strike, which suggests they were in the final stages of acquiring a longer range missile, probably with help from Iran. With Iranian support, the Huthis improved their maritime capabilitieswhich include antiship missiles, explosive-laden boats, and minesand consequently, the conflict remains a threat to vital international shipping lanes through the Red Sea.





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