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Yemen Civil War - 2020

Five years since a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states launched a military intervention against Houthi rebels in Yemen, the movement continues to make advances in the country's north. In March 2020 the group had taken control of territory in Jawf province including its main city of Hazm, which lies northeast of the capital, Sanaa, while it has also pushed into parts of the resource-rich Marib province, the last stronghold of Yemen's internationally recognised government in the north.

The Houthi advances against forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and their regional allies came despite the financial power of the Saudi-led coalition and the continuing international and domestic isolation of the rebel movement. Buoyed by his group's military progress in recent months, Houthi leader Abdelmalek al-Houthi urged the coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to halt attacks.

Saudi Arabia said 21 February 2020 it intercepted and destroyed several ballistic missiles launched by Yemen's Houthi rebels towards Saudi cities, in the latest cross-border attack. The missiles were fired from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa at 12:30am and were aimed at cities and civilians, the Saudi-UAE-led coalition fighting the Yemeni group said.

Yemen's Houthi rebels wrested control of a strategic city in the country's north, officials said, in a major blow to the internationally recognised government and the Saudi-led coalition that backs it. The officials said 01 March 2020 the Shia fighters took control of Hazm, the capital of the province of Jawf, following weeks of fighting between the Iran-aligned group and government forces backed by Saudi-led allies. The fall of Hazm would pave the way for the rebels to come closer to the central province of Marib, the only safe spot in Yemen for those opposing the Houthis. The oil-rich province of Jawf is where the Houthis recently used air defences to shoot down a coalition warplane last month, raising alarm among the Saudi-led camp that the rebels are acquiring advanced weaponry.

The Saudi-UAE coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen carried out more than a dozen air strikes on the capital Sanaa, the first such attacks on the city in months. According to Houthi-run Al Masirah TV, the coalition launched 19 air raids on 30 Mrch 2020. No casualties were initially reported. The attacks on Sanaa came after Saudi Arabia intercepted two ballistic missiles the Houthis said they had launched on Saturday towards Riyadh and southern parts of the kingdom near the Yemeni border. The Houthi attack coincided with the fifth anniversary of Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen's civil war.

Tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict. Airports, ports, bridges and roads have all been repeatedly attacked. Farms, schools, oil and gas facilities, factories and private businesses have also been targeted. The fighting has triggered what the UN describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with millions displaced and in need of aid.

The Saudi-led coalition has dwindled and is now largely made up of forces aligned with Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates who have sought to remove the Houthis from power and restore the internationally recognised government. The Saudi-led effort has largely failed to drive the Houthis out of power.

The Houthis had been unable to get international recognition, which would have been a possibility if the Houthis had taken control of Yemen and not faced any local resistance. But the intervention and the protracted conflict caused what the UN describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis in the poorest country in the Middle East.

More than 100,000 people had been killed in the war, according to ACLED (Armed Conflict Location and Event Data), including 12,000 civilians. According to the World Food Programme, 24 million Yemenis were in need of humanitarian assistance, while 20 million were food insecure.

The Houthi grip on Sanaa and the northern highlands appeared fairly secure but the group had few domestic allies, having fought against most of the other major factions in Yemen, including Hadi loyalists, southern separatists, pro-Islah party militias, and loyalists of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh helped the Houthis take control of Sanaa in 2014 but was killed in December 2017 by Houthi fighters, who suspected that he was preparing to ally with the Saudi-led coalition. His death marked the end of a brief period of fighting between the Houthis and forces loyal to the former leader, and perhaps the last real opportunity for the Saudi-led coalition to defeat the Houthis in their northern stronghold. While Saleh's death led to some coalescence of non-Houthi forces around the coalition Hadi's government, the anti-Houthi alliance was weak and has since fractured.

The Saudi-led coalition on 24 April 2020 said it was extending a unilateral ceasefire in Yemen by one month to support efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic. A two-week ceasefire announced by the coalition that is battling the Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen expired on 23 april 2020y without leading to a permanent truce. The Houthi group did not accept the coalition's previous ceasefire announcement and violence continued in several provinces, raising fears that the war will grind on and shatter Yemen's already weakened ability to combat the coronavirus.

Yemen's UAE-backed southern separatists seized full control of the island of Socotra on 22 April 2020. The Southern Transitional Council (STC) says it has also deposed the governor of the island. But Yemen's Saudi-backed government is calling it a coup.

Yemen's southern separatists announced plans 22 April 2020 to establish a self-ruled administration in regions under their controlin a move the country's internationally-backed government said would have "catastrophic consequences". The Southern Transitional Council (STC) declared a state of emergency and said it would "self-govern" the key southern port city of Aden and other southern provinces.

Yemen's government and southern separatist forces agreed on a ceasefire 22 June 2020 and will begin talks in Saudi Arabia on implementing a peace deal, the kingdom's ambassador to Yemen has announced. Both sides agreed to a ceasefire in Abyan province and the de-escalation of tensions in other regions, Mohammed al-Jaber said. The self-styled Southern Transitional Council (STC) and the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi also agreed to start talks on implementing a Riyadh agreement involving committees from both sides.



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Page last modified: 28-06-2020 21:00:07 ZULU