Yemen Civil War - 2018
Fighting in Yemen will persist along the major battlefronts between Huthi-aligned forces, backed by Iran, and remnants of the Yemeni government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Neither the Huthis nor the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi, backed by the Arab coalition, has been able to achieve decisive results through military force. Efforts at peace talks are stalled, and the Huthis are unwilling to cede territory or disarm, and Saudi Arabia is unwilling to accept a perceived Iranian proxy on its southern border and weapons in the hands of nonstate actors. Observers did not expect a significant shift in 2018.
The fighting has displaced more than 2 million people and has left more than 80 percent of Yemen’s population of 27 million in need of humanitarian aid. Relief operations are hindered by insecurity, ineffective and corrupt distribution practices, and funding shortages. Health agencies have recorded over 1 million cases of cholera in Yemen since April, according to the World Health Organization. Some humanitarian aid deliveries do get through; most Yemenis will rely on such aid for survival, even in a postconflict Yemen.
While the military coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was launched in 2015 after the start of the war to defend the government of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and push back the Houthi rebels, the balance of power seemed to have shifted. The UAE has come to dominate southern Yemen, where it has been training and financing troops that answer only to Abu Dhabi, while the Houthis still control the north of the country. The Emiratis distrust Hadi, accusing him of corruption and opposed his alliance with the Islah Party, Yemen's branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In late January 2018 Yemen's southern coastal city of Aden was gripped by days of fighting after armed separatist forces - backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - moved against the internationally recognised government. Fighters from the Southern Resistance Forces (SRF), the armed wing of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) - a political movement demanding secession for southern Yemen - clashed with the Yemeni army. The group accused Hadi's government of "rampant corruption" resulting in a "deteriorating economic, security and social situation never before witnessed in the history of the south".
Forces loyal to the Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi were largely been defeated in Aden by the separatist group calling itself the Transitional Southern Council and its forces known as the Security Belt, which was formed, financed and armed by the United Arab Emirates The unrest in Yemen has been ongoing since 2015 between the supporters of the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Houthi rebels. With a Saudi-led Arab coalition backing President Hadi, and Iran supporting the Houthi rebels, the brutal conflict has stood at a stalemate, leaving thousands killed and injured, and leading to a humanitarian crisis that the United Nations has called the world’s worst. Meanwhile, the al-Qaida branch in Yemen, more commonly known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and its rival, IS, have exploited the turmoil to establish safe havens in the south and carry out deadly attacks throughout the country.
“We have passed the grim milestone of 1,000 days of war in Yemen,” begins a 30 December 2017 joint statement from the World Health Program, the World Food Program and UNICEF, appealing for humanitarian access and an end to the conflict. “The conflict in Yemen has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, a crisis which has engulfed the entire country,” the groups said.
About 75 percent of Yemen’s population is in need of humanitarian assistance, the statement said, including 11.3 million children who cannot survive without it. At least 60 percent of Yemenis don't have enough to eat, and 16 million people do not have safe water and proper sanitation. Many more lack can't get basic health services.
As of February 2018, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that more than 5,974 civilians had been killed and more than 9,493 civilians wounded in Yemen since March 2015. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 20 million people, or 80% of the population, are in need of humanitarian aid. In a recent report, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) stated that there are more than 2 million internally displaced persons in Yemen.
On 15 March 2018, the UN Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement (PRST) on the humanitarian situation in Yemen. The PRST represents a step forward to holding all parties to the conflict in Yemen accountable for their abuses. It calls, among other things, for full humanitarian and commercial access as well as for all parties to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law. However, no reporting mechanism on the implementation of the PRST has been established.
The United Nations and humanitarian organizations continued to express concern about their ability to access seaports and airports and difficulties in distributing aid to vulnerable populations once it is inside the country. It is important that shipments into Yemen be subject to inspection by the U.N. Verification and Inspection Mechanism to help prevent the transit of illicit materials in violation of the U.N. arms embargo, but all parties to the conflict in Yemen have a responsibility, including under international humanitarian law, to allow access to aid by those in need.
The Saudi-led coalition continued to impose delays on ships carrying food and fuel into Yemeni ports. According to the U.N., the Saudi-led coalition caused 5.9 days of additional delay i
n the month of February 2018 on ships going to the major ports of Hodeidah and Saleef.
The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR reported 10 February 2018 an upsurge in violence in battle-scarred Yemen had sent more than 85,000 people fleeing for their lives in the past 10 weeks, adding to the already huge displacement that exists across the country. UNHCR spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly said there is particular concern about the welfare of civilians who remain close to hostilities in these areas. “As a result of prolonged fighting in those two governorates, conditions continue to deteriorate, exposing people to violence and disease, without access to basic services. Most of those displaced in the governorates of Al Hudaydah and Taizz remain hosted by relatives or friends, trapped inside homes or in caves as ground clashes, aerial bombardment and sniper fire rage around them,” Pouilly said.
A former Yemeni minister of state said 22 March 2018 that the Saudi-led coalition had deviated from its objectives, adding that the sovereign Yemeni decision has been taken away from the people. Salah al-Sayadi's statement followed his resignation and came just days after he said that Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was under house arrest in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Hadi and much of his government have been in Riyadh for most of the war but, he had been continuously sending written requests to Saudi Arabia's King Salman, wanting to return to Yemen. Hadi's inability to get back to southern Yemen is seen as underscoring the president's loss of authority - even in the south that is nominally under his administration.
The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's exiled government began an assault on 13 June 2018 on Yemen's port city of Hudaida. Aid agencies warned that the crucial battle in the three-year-old conflict could push the Arab world's poorest country into further chaos. Iranian-aligned Houthis and their allies for years had held the Red Sea port, crucial to food supplies in a nation on the brink of famine after years of war.
The battle for Hudaida, if the Houthis don't withdraw, also may mark the first major street-to-street urban fighting for the Saudi-led coalition, which can be deadly for both combatants and civilians alike. The initial battle plan appeared to involve a pincer movement. Some 2,000 troops who crossed the Red Sea from an Emirati naval base in the African nation of Eritrea landed west of the city with plans to seize Hudaida's port. Emirati forces with Yemeni troops moved in from the south near Hudaida's airport, while others sought to cut off Houthi supply lines to the east.
UN and Western nations said Iran has supplied the Houthis with weapons from assault rifles up to the ballistic missiles they have fired deep into Saudi Arabia, including at the capital, Riyadh. Before the war, over 70 percent of Yemen's food and fuel imports came through Hudaida, accounting for over 40 percent of the nation's customs income.
Forty children were among 51 people killed in a Saudi-led coalition air strike on a bus in rebel-held northern Yemen, the Red Cross said 15 August 2018, after thousands protested at a mass funeral. Fifty-six children were also among the 79 people wounded in the 13 August 2018 strike on Saada province, a rebel stronghold that borders Saudi Arabia, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a new toll. The child deaths were an embarrassment for Western governments which supply the coalition with warplanes and other weapons and have sought to prevent the conduct of the war being scrutinised too closely.
The air attack by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen that killed dozens of people, including children travelling on a bus, lacked military justification and requires a review of the rules of engagement, a coalition body said on 01 September 2018. The rare concession by the Joint Incident Assessment Team, an investigative entity set up by the coalition, follows mounting international pressure, including from allies, to do more to limit civilian casualties in the 3-1/2 year civil war.
The Western-backed alliance fighting the Iranian-aligned Houthi group in Yemen said at the time that the air strikes had targeted missile launchers used to attack the southern Saudi city of Jizan a day earlier and accused the Houthis of using children as human shields. JIAT legal adviser Mansour Ahmed al-Mansour on Saturday said the strikes had been based on intelligence indicating that the bus was carrying Houthi leaders, a legitimate military target, but that delays in executing the strike and receiving a no-strike order should be investigated.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on 13 December 2018 announced that Yemen's warring sides had agreed after week-long peace talks in Sweden to a province-wide cease-fire in Hudaida and a withdrawal of troops from the contested Red Sea port city. Guterres thanked the Yemeni delegations for what he called "an important step" and "real progress toward future talks to end the conflict" and also said that the next round of talks was planned for the end of January 2019. The UN-sponsored talks had low expectations for halting the conflict immediately, but saw some progress with the agreement of a prisoner swap to include some 15,000 people at the start of the talks.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|