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Back-channel efforts to restore truce showed little sign of breakthrough, as economic conflict escalated amid lingering risks of front-line hostilities and regional escalation.
No signs of progress in renewing truce emerged, despite ongoing efforts. Back-channel talks between Saudi Arabia and Huthis failed to make breakthrough as Huthis maintained demand for Saudi-led coalition to use govt oil revenues for public sector salaries, including of security services, which govt refused, while Saudi Arabia sought reassurance that Huthis would commit to political process. Diplomatic efforts continued nonetheless: notably, UN Envoy Hans Grundberg 6 Dec concluded trip to Saudi Arabia; European Union (EU) ambassadors 8 Dec concluded visit to Aden city where they met Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) head al-Alimi; EU delegation 10 Dec met Taiz governor and military, security and civil society leaders in Taiz city; head of Huthi Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation 6 Dec met EU delegation to Yemen to discuss humanitarian situation. In attempt to ease intra-PLC tensions, al-Alimi, Southern Transitional Council chief and PLC member Ayderous al-Zubaidi, and PLC Islah representative Abdullah al-Alimi 2 Dec met in United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Huthis and govt targeted each other on economic front. Although front-line hostilities did not significantly escalate, parallel economic conflict became increasingly visible. Following Huthi attacks in recent months on govt oil facilities, which paralysed state revenues, economic situation in govt-held areas deteriorated markedly; notably, Aden city witnessed repeated power outages, heightening risk of civil unrest. Huthis intensified threats to target facilities with drones to prevent exports without Huthis receiving share. In response, Central Bank of Aden 6 Dec ordered money exchange companies to freeze accounts of, and stop transactions with, 12 Huthi-affiliated entities; tit-for-tat measures heighten risk of miscalculation that could trigger return to hostilities.
In other important developments. PLC member and leader of National Resistance Force Tareq Saleh 7 Dec oversaw opening of UAE-financed airport in Mokha port city, Taiz governorate, easing movement restrictions for besieged Taiz residents. Defence minister 8 Dec signed military and security cooperation agreement with UAE; Huthi Deputy FM same day called agreement illegal and threatened to target Abu Dhabi.
Back-channel talks between Huthis and Saudi Arabia signalled deal could be reached outside stalled UN process, while Huthis attacked energy infrastructure, raising risks of front-line and regional escalation.
Huthis and Riyadh intensified back-channel negotiations away from UN process. As UN efforts to resurrect truce remained deadlocked, Huthis and Saudi Arabia intensified Oman-facilitated secret talks that excludes Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) and UN Special Envoy. Huthis demanded govt use oil and gas revenues to pay civilian and military state employees; while PLC rejected demand, Riyadh reportedly showed willingness to accommodate request provided Huthis enter political process first. Talks raise prospect of bilateral agreement that excludes PLC, which could incentivise anti-Huthi factions to act as spoilers.
Huthis attacked oil and gas infrastructure and redeployed troops on front lines. Huthis 9 Nov launched “warning shot” drone attack on Qana port in Shebwa governorate and ramped up media campaign threatening to target domestic and regional oil and gas facilities; attack disrupted crude oil exports, which is govt’s only source of revenue, and raised spectre of high-profile attack on Saudi Arabia or United Arab Emirates during World Cup. Huthis 21 Nov attacked al-Dhabba oil terminal for second time. While violence remained below pre-truce levels, tempo of skirmishes along front lines rose steadily, as Huthis sent reinforcements to Marib governorate. Unknown gunmen 8 Nov killed adviser to defence minister and his driver near Marib city. Meanwhile, UN human rights chief 4 Nov said Huthis had committed war crimes since truce’s expiry. U.S. Navy 8 Nov reported-ly intercepted shipment of missile fuel from Iran to Huthis in Gulf of Oman.
Diplomatic efforts continued to reinstate UN-brokered truce. U.S. Envoy for Yemen Timothy Lenderking 2-8 Nov visited Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates to meet Saudi, Emirati and govt officials. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg 7 Nov concluded visit to Saudi capital Riyadh, where he met Saudi ambassador to Yemen who is reportedly prominently involved in back-channel talks. Meanwhile, PLC leader al-Alimi 2 Nov attended Arab summit in Algerian capital Algiers and urged member states to designate Huthis as terrorist organisation, as PLC had done in Oct.
April truce remained stuck in limbo after parties failed to agree extension, raising risk of Huthi regional attacks and new cycle of escalation.
Truce remained stuck between outright collapse and extension. Ahead of 2 Oct expiry, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg 1 Oct proposed reopening roads in Taiz governorate, expanding flights from Sanaa airport, lifting restrictions on Hodeida port, and paying public sector salaries and pensions; however, Huthis at eleventh hour demanded govt pay salaries of defence and interior ministries in Huthi-controlled areas using oil and gas revenues, which govt rejected. Main sticking point during month remained source of revenue that ought to cover salary payments, with reports suggesting possible regional player could foot bill; unconfirmed reports late month suggested backchannel talks between Huthis and Saudi Arabia to revive truce were ongoing.
In absence of extension, risk of return to frontline and cross-border hostilities grew. Huthis 2 Oct threatened to target international energy companies operating in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, ahead of influx of visits to region for World Cup in Qatar in Nov. In first announced military action since truce expiry, Huthi drone 21 Oct targeted cargo ship docking at oil terminal in al-Shihr port, Hadramawt governorate, as Huthis accused companies of looting country’s resources. In response, govt’s National Defence Council designated Huthis as terrorist organisation. Elsewhere, clashes between Huthis and Saudi-led coalition-aligned Southern Transitional Council (STC) 6 Oct reportedly killed at least eight in Yafa, Lahij governorate. UN 13 Oct reported skirmishes along frontlines in Taiz, Marib, Hodeida and Dhale governorates during month.
In south, tensions continued within anti-Huthi bloc. STC mobilised protestors demanding withdrawal of Islah-aligned forces, in effort to extend its rule in Hadramawt governorate; thousands of pro-STC demonstrators 14 Oct reportedly protested in Seiyun, Hadramawt governorate.
In other important developments. Saudi delegation 12 Oct travelled to Sanaa, and Huthi delegation visited kingdom, to finalise prisoner exchange talks for first time since 2014; both parties reiterated agenda did not include truce. Yemeni riyal’s value 4 Oct plummeted to 1,174 to dollar, lowest since April.
Efforts to extend UN-brokered truce stalled ahead of Oct deadline amid govt disunity and Huthi military build-up, raising spectre of return to full-scale fighting.Govt and Huthis failed to overcome key sticking points to renew truce. Ahead of expiry of UN-brokered truce on 2 Oct, efforts to secure third extension remained deadlocked amid fear of return to front-line hostilities; main sticking points included Huthi demand for disbursement of salary payments to areas under their control and govt demand for Huthis to first reopen roads in and around Taiz city. Flurry of diplomacy continued: notably, head of Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) Rashad al-Alimi during month met UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg, U.S. Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Grundberg 3-5 Sept met Iranian FM Hossein Amir Abdollahian who reiterated Huthis’ call for lifting “blockade” and disbursing salary payments; Huthis 28 Sept reiterated threats to not extend while Grunberg warned “real risk” of return to war.Anti-Huthi bloc faced fragmentation amid simmering tensions in south. Following deadly clashes in Aug between PLC factions that saw United Arab Emirates-aligned forces consolidate control of Shebwa and Southern Transition Council (STC) late Aug advance into Lawdar, capital of Abyan governorate, situation in south calmed during month; however, STC signalled intent to push further east into oil-rich Hadramawt and Mahra governorates. Protests supported by STC occurred throughout month in Hadramawt and Mahrah governorates demanding replacement of Islah forces from security positions.Huthis continued military build-up in Hodeida, al-Qaeda struck in south. Huthis 1 Sept held military parade in Hodeida city; UN mission in Hodeida same day condemned parade as violation of 2018 Hodeida agreement. Huthis 21 Sept held another military parade in capital Sanaa as govt same day held military parades in Marib and Taiz; Huthis may believe resumption of hostilities favours them after weeks of PLC infighting. Meanwhile, suspected al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) 6 Sept launched deadly attack on security post in Ahwar, Abyan province, sparking clashes that killed 21 troops and eight militants.
Warring parties agreed two-month truce extension, while deadly clashes in Shebwa among rival anti-Huthi factions widened cracks within Political Leadership Council. Govt and Huthis 2 Aug for second time agreed to extend UN-mediated April truce for another two months; UN’s failure to secure six-month extension may signal warring parties’ reluctance both to return to frontline fighting and to transform truce into permanent ceasefire. Huthis same day demanded disbursement of salaries to public sector employees in Huthi-controlled areas, which they said was precondition for further truce extension, and opening of ports and airports. Govt refused salary payments before Huthis reopen roads in Taiz city; Taiz issue remained deadlocked despite rounds of talks in recent months in Jordanian capital Amman. Govt 29 Aug claimed Huthi attack killed 10 soldiers near Taiz city in “dangerous escalation”. On diplomatic front, UN Military Advisor Antony Hayward 4 Aug travelled to Ibb and Taiz governorates and met Huthi and govt representatives to discuss reopening roads in Taiz; UN envoy’s representative in Aden 10 Aug visited Mokha city in Taiz governorate to discuss opening roads local authorities. Meanwhile, tensions escalated within Political Leadership Council established in April. In Shebwa governorate, United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed groups and Islah-aligned factions came to blows after Shebwa Governor and General People’s Congress Party member Muhammad bin al-Wazir al-Awlaki 6 Aug removed local commander of paramilitary Special Security Forces (SSF) and Islah party loyalist Abdi Rabbi Lakaab. Fighting between UAE-aligned Giants Brigades and Shebwa Defence Forces (SDF) on one side and SSF on other 7 Aug erupted in provincial capital Ataq; Giants Brigades and SDF 10 Aug reportedly took over city with dozens killed in fighting. Islah forces said Giants Brigades 20 Aug took over parts of oil field in Shebwa’s Ayaz. In neighbouring Abyan governorate, Political Leadership Council leader Rashid al-Alimi 22 Aug ordered Southern Transition Council (STC, backed by UAE and aligned with SDF) to cease its military operations, which STC next day described as “anti-terror” operation. Earlier, Al-Alimi 1 Aug appointed STC leader as governor of Socotra island and General People’s Congress official with purported STC ties as governor of Hadramawt.
Amid deadlocked talks to reopen roads to Taiz city, international actors scrambled to extend UN-mediated truce ahead of August expiry; failure to extend could see return to front-line and cross-border fighting. Ahead of 2 Aug expiry of UN-mediated truce between warring parties, international efforts to secure six-month extension intensified. Huthi Supreme Presidential Council member Mohammed al-Huthi 17 July called UN-mediated truce “shocking and disappointing experience”, suggesting Huthis may not agree to further truce extension; failure to extend could see conflict parties return to front-line fighting and cross-border attacks between Huthis and Saudi Arabia. Talks over reopening roads to Taiz, key pillar of truce agreement, remained stalled, further eroding hope of extension. Parties opted for unilateral announcements that did not translate into action on ground: Huthis 6 July announced unilaterally opening 50th/60th road, north west of Taiz city; Presidential Leadership Council member Tareq Saleh next day ordered reopening of road between Mokha city and Taiz areas under Huthi control, while Southern Transitional Council leader Ayderous al-Zubaidi announced reopening of road in al-Dhale governorate. UN special envoy’s office 21 July said Huthis rejected latest UN proposal focused on opening four secondary routes in Taiz in first phase. At talks in Jordanian capital Amman, Huthi and govt military committee representatives 5 July agreed to create joint operation room to coordinate military efforts and to reduce inflammatory media rhetoric. On security front, explosion at arms depot 5 July killed at least six and wounded 32 in Lawdar town, Abyan province. Suspected Huthi shelling 23 July killed at least one child and injured ten in Taiz city. Intense military redeployments by conflict parties on key front lines, including in Taiz and Marib, signalled preparation for potential resumption of violence. Anti-Huthi factions conducted recruitment campaigns; notably, Saudi-funded Happy Yemen Brigades commenced recruitment in Abyan province and deployed to presidential palace in Aden, seat of govt and leadership council; in parallel, Southern Transitional Council continued recruitment, mostly in Aden. UN Security Council 13 July extended mandate of UN mission (UNMHA) implementing Dec 2018 ceasefire in Hodeida ports. Presidential Leadership Council 29 July announced partial cabinet reshuffle.
Conflict parties extended April truce for two months, while negotiations over access to Taiz city remained central sticking point and divisions surfaced within govt. Warring parties 2 June renewed UN-mediated April truce for two months; truce – which is longest in effect since start of war in 2015 – has halted entirely cross-border attacks between Saudi-led coalition and Huthis and significantly slowed ground fighting. Low-scale fighting, however, continued during month across front lines, while conflict parties reportedly continued redeployment of military reinforcements and use of drones was reported in Marib, Hajjah, Saada, Hodeida, Taiz and al-Dhale governorates. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 3 June said 19 civilians had been killed in first two months of truce. In effort to fulfil truce’s third confidence-building measure, govt and Huthis 5 June began second round of negotiations in Jordanian capital Amman over reopening road access to Taiz city; UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg’s office 6 June presented proposal for phased reopening of roads. Huthis 24 June rejected UN proposal. After Huthis lifted ban on Grundberg’s entry to capital Sanaa, envoy 8 June visited city to meet Huthi Supreme Political Council President Mahdi al-Mashat and other Huthi officials, urging them to accept UN proposal. Separately, govt, Huthi and Saudi-led coalition representatives 6 June agreed to set up joint operation room to facilitate ceasefire. News 13 June surfaced that Oman facilitated talks in May on border security between Saudi Arabia and Huthis. Domestically, tensions within recently-formed Presidential Leadership Council surfaced, raising uncertainty over whether anti-Huthi bloc will remain united; notably, head of Southern Transitional Council (STC) Ayderous al-Zubaidi pushed for STC military wing, Security Belt Forces, to remain independent following govt’s decision in May to unify all anti-Huthi factions; STC reportedly has embarked on rampant recruitment across south. Meanwhile, security incidents in south rose, notably targeting STC-aligned individuals; IED 15 June killed journalist in Aden city. On economic front, food prices rose causing aid organisations to reduce food rations. With Yemeni riyal reaching 1,050 to U.S. dollar early month, state oil company in Aden 4 June increased fuel prices. Amid increasing power-cuts, as summer months approach, protests 5 June erupted in Mukalla city, Hadramawt governorate.
April truce largely held as UN scrambled to extend deal ahead of June expiration to avoid potential return to hostilities; Sanaa airport opened for first commercial flight in six years. Hostilities remained largely paused between govt and Huthis, notwithstanding slight increase in reported violations on ground, notably in Jabal Balaq mountains in Marib governorate, Taiz and Hajjah governorates. Huthis 23 May downed alleged Saudi-led coalition spy drone, killing three and injuring three in capital Sanaa. In positive development, first commercial flight in six years 16 May left Sanaa international airport after it had been temporarily postponed in April; reopening of airport was part of UN-brokered truce along with ending restrictions on fuel shipments into Hodeida port and lifting Huthi siege on Taiz city. Regarding latter, Huthis 17 May announced new demands, including halting fighting in Taiz governorate and removing military equipment from main roads; first round of talks between Huthis and govt to reopen Taiz roads 29 May ended with no tangible results. On diplomatic front, as expiration of truce on 2 June approached, UN envoy Hans Grundberg worked to secure extension. Grundberg 12 May spoke with head of Presidential Council Rashad al-Alimi, PM Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed and VP of Council Tareq Saleh about truce. Yemeni FM Ahmed Awak bin Mubarak 17 May met U.S Sec State Anthony Blinken in U.S. capital Washington and said govt was “very hopeful to extend” truce. Head of Huthi Supreme Political Council 22 May said Huthis “are not against” extending truce. Grundberg 30 May returned to Aden city and met with Rashad al-Alimi to discuss reopening Taiz roads, and 31 May met with Huthi’s chief negotiator Mohammed Abdul-Salam, where he discussed renewing truce and reopening roads in Taiz governorate. In gesture to support truce, Saudi-led coalition 6 May returned over 100 prisoners to Yemen. Clashes between suspected al-Qaeda militants and Southern Transitional Council-aligned militia Security Belt 6 May reportedly killed dozen in Dhale governorate. Saudi Arabia 16 May agreed to transfer $174mn deposit to Yemeni central bank. Yemeni riyal was volatile after relative stability during Ramadan: 8 May deteriorated to 1040 riyal to U.S. dollar before 18 May appreciating to 980.
In major breakthrough, fighting slowed and cross-border attacks halted after warring parties agreed two-month truce, while President Hadi handed over power to new presidential council. In first coordinated cessation of hostilities since 2016, UN Envoy Hans Grundberg 1 April announced two-month nationwide truce starting next day between Hadi govt and Huthis, which includes cessation of military operations and cross-border attacks, opening of Sanaa airport for biweekly commercial flights to Jordan and Egypt, permission for around 18 fuel ships to enter Huthi-controlled Hodeida port, and negotiations over opening road access to besieged Taiz city. Fighting slowed significantly following announcement of truce: Saudi-led coalition airstrikes and Huthi cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia halted, while fighting around Marib city persisted at low level. Grundberg 6 April expressed concern over “some hostile military activities”, especially around Marib, while absence of mechanism to monitor violations leaves truce fragile; collapse of deal could see swift return to front-line fighting and cross-border attacks. In first visit since taking office, Grundberg 11 April travelled to capital Sanaa and met senior Huthi officials. First commercial flight from Sanaa International Airport in six years was postponed 24 April after disputes over passports being used by travellers. Amid Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-led consultations in Saudi capital Riyadh and reportedly under pressure from Saudi Arabia, President Hadi 7 April announced removal of VP Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and transferred executive authority to new Presidential Leadership Council led by veteran politician and security official Rashad al-Alimi; Council includes diverse anti-Huthi factions and equal number of northern and southern leaders. Al-Alimi 8 April promised to “end the war and achieve peace”. Al-Alimi and other council members arrived in southern Aden city from Saudi Arabia and were sworn in 19 April with UN envoy and EU and GCC ambassadors in attendance. Following formation of presidential council, Saudi Arabia 7 April announced $3bn financial aid to govt, $1bn of which United Arab Emirates will supply, and $300mn for UN aid response; subsequently, Yemeni riyal nearly doubled in value from around 1,000 to about 650 YR to dollar, but subsequently declined.
Fighting slowed on front lines, UN envoy initiated political talks, and rising fuel prices and food shortages exacerbated humanitarian crisis. Fighting remained largely stalemated throughout month with clashes concentrated in Hajjah and Marib governorates. In Hajjah, Huthis retook areas in Harad city they lost in Feb. In Marib, fighting took place in Harib district near al-Balaq mountains encircling Marib city. Elsewhere, govt-aligned forces launched attacks on Huthis in Mukayras district, al-Bayda governorate, and Lawdar district, Abyan governorate; relative calm on front lines could signal Huthis re-grouping for counteroffensive around Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Huthis continued cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia that provoked retaliatory airstrikes (see Saudi Arabia). On diplomatic front, UN Envoy Hans Grundberg 7 March initiated consultations with political parties (excluding Huthis) in Jordanian capital Amman; no tangible results. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) 15 March proposed multiparty talks in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh with Huthis, who next day said they would welcome talks only in neutral country; GCC states elected instead to hold political consultations in Riyadh with anti-Huthi parties, in apparent effort at forming united front, and potentially restructuring govt. Grundberg 19 March met Huthi chief negotiator to discuss possible truce during Ramadan. Head of Huthi-led Supreme Political Council 26 March proposed initiative via mediators to halt Huthi cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and ceasefire for three days in exchange for coalition reopening Sanaa International airport, and bring Hodeida port back up to full capacity; Saudi-led coalition 29 March announced it would halt military operations from next day. Russian invasion of Ukraine compounded already dire humanitarian situation. With 30%-40% of country’s wheat imported from Ukraine and Russia, outbreak of war (see Ukraine) led to skyrocketing prices as country has four months of reserves. Rising costs and depreciating currency raise risk of social unrest, not least during Ramadan when average household consumption rises; Integrated Food Security Phase Classification 14 March predicted 60% of population likely to experience acute food insecurity June-Dec 2022. High-level donor conference 16 March only raised $1.3bn of estimated $4.3bn budget, forcing UN to scale down humanitarian programs in 2022.
Anti-Huthi forces maintained multi-front offensive to regain lost territories as fighting in Marib stalemated, while tensions in south and economic hardship across country persisted. Govt-affiliated forces throughout month launched multi-front offensive, restoring degree of military equilibrium after two years of Huthi gains, but suffered series of reversals on ground. Govt forces advanced on Haradh city, Hajjah governorate, and reportedly gained parts of al-Safra district, Saada governorate. In Taiz governorate, United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed National Resistance Forces advanced along Red Sea-Taiz city road between Jabal Habashi and Maqabana districts. However, Huthis launched counteroffensives in each area, claiming to have retaken most territory. In Marib governorate, fighting largely stalemated. Saudi-led coalition early month reportedly deployed newly-formed “Happy Yemen Brigades” near Marib. While UAE-backed Giants Brigades late Jan withdrew from Shebwa and southern Marib governorates, two brigades remained in northern Shebwa and Harib governorates where fighting continued. In southern Marib governorate, govt forces encircled Huthis from strategic al-Ain and Harib road. Huthis continued cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia throughout month (see Saudi Arabia). Saudi-led coalition responded with airstrikes; notably, strike 14 Feb hit telecommunications infrastructure in capital Sanaa. In Hadramawt governorate in south, tensions between govt and tribal Hiba movement rose as Hiba blocked oil exports, demanding greater share of oil revenues from Shihr port. Southern Transitional Council official 17 Feb called for “escalation” of protests demanding withdrawal of govt troops from governorate. Fuel shortages remained widespread, particularly in Huthi-controlled territories, with govt and Huthis accusing each other of blocking passage of oil. Yemeni riyal 15 Feb fell to 1,180 to U.S. dollar, further increasing pressure on fuel price. Internationally, U.S. govt – under pressure from UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel – 4 Feb held internal meeting about possible designation of Huthis as Foreign Terrorist Organisation; Treasury Dept 23 Feb sanctioned members of international network funding Huthis. UN Envoy Hans Grundberg 3 Feb met Huthi spokesperson in Oman’s capital Muscat; Huthis still refused Grundberg’s entry into Sanaa. In UN Security Council briefing, Grundberg 15 Feb announced new framework for inclusive process. UN Security Council 28 Feb imposed arms embargo on Huthis.
Battlefield hostilities escalated as anti-Huthi forces regained Shebwa governorate and Saudi-led coalition intensified bombing after Huthis launched deadly attacks on United Arab Emirates. United Arab Emirates (UAE)-aligned Giants Brigades early month recaptured al-Ain, Bayhan and Usaylan districts in north-western Shebwa governorate, al-Saadi junction connecting Marib and Shebwa governorates, and Harib district in southern Marib governorate; Giants Brigades later gained control of strategic road leading to al-Abdiya district and advanced toward Umm Rish camp in al-Juba district in Marib, although local and regional media late month reported that Giants’ military push was being halted; gains represented Huthis’ first visible territorial losses since their push toward Marib city in Jan 2020. In response to losses, Huthis carried out series of missile and drone attacks on UAE (see United Arab Emirates); Saudi-led coalition reacted by launching air strikes on capital Sanaa; notably, coalition 18 Jan carried out air raids on Sanaa killing at least 20; 21 Jan struck telecoms facility in Hodeida city killing three children and causing four-day nationwide internet outage. Attack 21 Jan targeting prison in Huthi-held Saada city reportedly killed at least 91 and injured over 200; coalition denied responsibility. U.S. President Biden 19 Jan said administration was considering re-designating Huthis as international terrorist organisation. Elsewhere, clashes continued without major shifts in front lines. In south, Taiz city witnessed increased levels of fighting, with govt forces making small advances around Jabal Habashi and Maqbana districts’ border. On political front, tensions between local authorities and tribal movements resurfaced in Hadramawt governorate as tribal conglomeration Hadramawt Inclusive Committee in Wadi Hadramawt area vied for establishment of locally-led military unit outside of ministry of defence chain of command as governor rejected idea. On economic front, currency volatility persisted as Yemeni riyal 30 Jan fell to 1,030 to U.S. dollar, following its appreciation last month, amid fuel shortages and price hikes, notably in Sanaa. Internationally, Iranian FM 10 Jan met Huthi top negotiator and Omani officials; UN Envoy Hans Grundberg 12 Jan briefed UN Security Council, notably highlighted military escalation and concern over militarisation of Hodeida port; 19 Jan met Saudi Vice Minister of Defense and Yemeni FM in Saudi capital Riyadh.
Govt forces regained some positions from Huthis in southern Hodeida amid ongoing fighting around Marib city, tit-for-tat violence at Saudi border escalated, and protests erupted in south. On Red Sea coast, govt-aligned Joint Resistance Forces reclaimed some areas in southern Hodeida province lost during Nov withdrawal, including most of Hays district and al-Udayn junction, temporarily cutting off Huthi supply lines from Taiz province. Joint Resistance Forces then focused operations on northern Maqbana axis in western Taiz, notably to gain economically strategic Saqim custom point. In Marib governorate, fighting remained focused around al-Balaq mountain range encircling Marib city. In blow to govt forces, clashes with Huthis 13 Dec reportedly killed senior govt military commander. Elsewhere, govt forces achieved minor gains in western Shebwa while fighting in al-Dhale and al-Bayda governorates slowed. Huthis continued cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia (see Saudi Arabia). Saudi-led coalition responded with airstrikes in Sanaa, Saada, Taiz, Marib and Hodeida governorates; notably, airstrike 3 Dec struck vehicle in Maqbana, Taiz province, killing five civilians and five Huthi fighters; coalition 20 Dec struck targets at Sanaa International Airport. Huthis 21-27 Dec halted humanitarian flights entering capital Sanaa. In south, protests over currency collapse and high food prices early Dec erupted in Aden, Hadramawt, Abyan and Taiz governorates; notably, hundreds 5 Dec protested in Taiz city calling for removal of Taiz governor and PM Abdulmalik Saeed. On political front, tribal members 6 Dec launched sit-in in Nisab district, Shebwa province, calling for removal of govt-aligned governor and protesting economic deterioration; President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi 26 Dec replaced governor with member of parliament aligned with former ruling General People’s Congress party. Economic situation im-proved with Riyal dropping to below 1,000 to U.S. dollar after govt 6 Dec replaced governor and deputy governor of govt-controlled Central Bank. Internationally, UN Envoy Hans Grundberg 13 Dec concluded visit to Oman’s capital Muscat where he met Yemeni and Omani officials, including Huthi chief negotiator Mohammed Ab-dul Salem, while Huthis continued to deny Grundberg entry into Sanaa. Grundberg 14 Dec briefed UN Security Council emphasising dire economic situation and need for negotiations even without ceasefire.
Withdrawal of Saudi-led coalition-aligned troops from Hodeida prompted Huthis to seize territory on Red Sea coast and close in on Marib city, raising prospect of imminent offensive or siege. Saudi-led coalition-aligned Joint Resistance Forces 12 Nov withdrew from Hodeida city to military bases in southern Hodeida and northern Taiz governorates, citing UN-brokered 2018 Stockholm Agreement; UN Mission on Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) denied knowledge of redeployment, 15 Nov called withdrawal “major shift” in front lines. Huthis immediately seized vacated areas, reopened road connecting Hodeida and capital Sanaa, and clashed with rival forces in al-Fazih, al-Tuhayta, al-Haima and Hays districts; local medical workers reported highest casualties on Red Sea coast since 2018. Saudi-led coalition 14 Nov launched airstrikes in Hodeida to protect aligned forces, which later initiated renewed offensive in southern Hodeida. In Marib governorate, Huthis 2 Nov announced capture of al-Jubah and Jabal Murad districts; by end of Nov, Huthis surrounded Marib city from al-Jodeida in south east, al-Jubah in south, Sirwah in west and Meghdal in north west with forces 20km from city, raising prospect of imminent offensive or siege. Elsewhere, anti-Huthi forces stepped up military campaign in western Taiz governorate, seizing territory in northern Maqabana district; Huthis 10 Nov fired missiles on Mokha city. In north, Huthis continued cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia (see Saudi Arabia); Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes, notably announcing strikes on Sanaa, Saada and Marib governorates 20 Nov. In south, security situation worsened; notably car bomb 9 Nov killed pregnant Yemeni journalist in Aden city. Protesters rallied in Lahij, Taiz, Abyan and Shebwa governorates over deteriorating economy and fuel prices. Tensions between Southern Transitional Council (STC) and govt continued, notably in Shebwa governorate. Amid stalled implementation of 2019 Riyadh Agreement, STC leadership 9 Nov stated “our patience has reached its limits”; most Saudi-led coalition forces 11 Nov vacated Aden – further Saudi withdrawal risks collapse of Riyadh Agreement. On diplomatic front, UN Envoy Hans Grundberg continued regional listening tour in Aden, Taiz governorate and Iranian capital Tehran. Economic situation worsened with Riyal falling to record-low, passing YR1,500 to U.S. dollar, and fuel prices reaching all-time high in south.
Huthis launched multi-pronged assault in central Yemen, increasing risk of battle for Marib city, while tensions between govt and Southern Transition Council (STC) escalated in south. On military front, after consolidating control in al-Bayda governorate in Sept, Huthi forces made major breakthroughs in last contiguous bloc of territory under govt control in central Yemen’s Abyan, Shebwa and Marib governorates, substantially raising likelihood of battle for Marib city. Huthis early month encircled Abidya district and gained control of Rahaba and Harib districts in Marib governorate as well as Usaylan, Bayhan and al-Ain districts in Shebwa governorate; gains enabled push into Jebel Murad and al-Jubah districts in Marib governorate in attempt to surround Marib city; fall of Marib city would deal heavy blow to govt credibility and UN mediation efforts. Meanwhile, Huthis continued cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia (see Saudi Arabia). In Hodeida governorate, Saudi-led coalition 6, 23, 24 Oct destroyed eight explosive-laden boats amid reports of build-up of Huthi forces. In south, tensions between govt and separatist STC rose; notably, gun battles between rival forces in Aden 2 Oct killed four militants. Car bomb targeting Aden Governor Ahmed Lamlas and Govt Minister Salem al-Socotri 10 Oct killed six and injured seven others; Lamlas and al-Socotri survived. Car bomb at Aden Airport 30 Oct killed several civilians. PM Maen Saeed Abdulmalek 12 Oct returned to Aden for first time in over six months. Insecurity and protests persisted in Aden as well as Lahij, Mukalla, Abyan governorates and Socotra island; notably, gunmen 4 Oct killed humanitarian worker in Tur al-Baha district, Lahij. On diplomatic front, UN Envoy Hans Grundberg continued regional listening tour, including in Saudi capital Riyadh and Aden in first Yemen visit since taking up position. In UN Security Council briefing, Grundberg 14 Oct confirmed meeting Huthi representatives in Omani capital Muscat and highlighted “growing gap” between Huthi’s and govt’s visions of ceasefire and political settlement. Economic situation worsened with ongoing fuel and electricity shortages. Yemeni riyal 17 Oct fell to record low YR1,385 to dollar, prompting govt to close exchange shops and implement measures to curb demand for foreign currency.
Huthis intensified assault in north and consolidated control in central al-Bayda governorate, raising prospect that fighting could increase further in coming month; protests escalated in south. On military front, hostilities escalated sharply throughout month. In north, Huthis made gains in western Marib governorate and 8 Sept captured Rahabah district in Marib’s south. In strategic and central al-Bayda governorate, Huthis consolidated control, enabling offensives into Bayhan district in Shebwa governorate and Lawdar district in Abyan governorate, threatening key road interchanges and transport lines between govt-held areas; Huthis could further intensify assaults in Marib, Shebwa and Abyan in coming weeks. In Hodeida governorate, fighting took place in southern al-Tuhayta, al-Hayma and Hays districts; Huthis reportedly deployed multiple brigades to al-Tuhayta in preparation for what local forces speculate is major offensive to restore control of Red Sea coast taken by United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed forces in 2018. Huthis also continued cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia (see Saudi Arabia). In south, Huthis 11 Sept fired five drones, three missiles at Red Sea port Mocha, Taiz governorate, reportedly injuring six soldiers. Fighting in al-Dhale governorate continued at same levels in Qataba, al-Husha and al-Masharih districts. Separately, protests escalated in Aden, Taiz, Shebwa, Hadramawt, Socotra and al-Mahra governorates throughout month; violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces, who fired live ammunition, 15 Sept left three dead during protests in Aden and Mukalla cities. Demonstrators in Aden and Hadramawt protested collapse of public services, electricity outages and currency collapse, while in Shebwa, Socotra and al-Mahra, protesters demanded withdrawal of Saudi and UAE troops. Southern Transition Council leader Aydrous al-Zubaidi 15 Sept declared state of emergency in southern governorates in response to Huthis’ inroads. Hundreds 27 Sept protested in Taiz city, blocking streets in protest at currency crash and inflation. On diplomatic front, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg 10 Sept briefed UN Security Council, stressing need for more inclusive, Yemeni-led peace process. Grundberg 15-17 Sept visited Saudi capital Riyadh, met with Yemeni President Hadi and govt and Saudi officials. Meanwhile, Yemeni Riyal fell below YR1,100 to dollar in govt-controlled areas, driving up fuel and commodity prices.
Fighting lulled in north but violence persisted in south amid tensions between govt and southern separatists; UN Sec-Gen appointed new special envoy, and UN sounded alarm over risk of famine. In north, fighting quietened with post-Eid al-Adha reduction in fighting largely continuing throughout month. Huthis continued cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia (see Saudi Arabia). In south, Huthis made advances towards Shebwa governorate and other territories controlled by Yafa tribal confederation; Huthi pressure increased fragile security situation amid wave of tit-for-tat assassinations targeting govt and Southern Transitional Council (STC) officials. Alleged Huthi attack targeting Saudi-led coalition’s al-Anad military base in Lahj governorate 29 Aug killed at least 30 soldiers and wounded at least 50 others. Saudi mediation attempts to broker power-sharing accord between Hadi govt and STC remained stalled. After govt-aligned speaker of House of Representatives 28 July decided to hold parliamentary meeting in eastern Hadramawt governorate, part of pre-1990 independent south, protesters 1 Aug in response to STC call for civil disobedience reportedly burnt tyres, blocked roads and closed shops in Seiyun and Mukalla cities in Hadramawt governorate. STC during month made series of unilateral security appointments; mid-month threatened to enforce independent local exchange rate in areas under STC control as Yemeni riyal early Aug fell below record YR1,060 to $1 in govt-controlled areas. On diplomatic front, UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres 6 Aug announced selection of Swedish diplomat and current EU Ambassador to Yemen Hans Grundberg as new UN special envoy for Yemen; govt officials, Saudi Arabia and Oman 7 Aug welcomed appointment while Huthi chief negotiator next day said talks with Grundberg would be futile without progress toward reopening ports and airports. UN Assistant Sec-Gen for the Middle East Khaled Khairi 23 Aug raised alarm over fuel shortages, called on govt to allow entry of essential supplies into Hodeida port and urged all parties to stop “weaponizing the economy” amid Huthi-govt standoff over tax and customs payments at Hodeida port. UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths same day warned two thirds of population dependent on humanitarian aid and 5mn people in immediate danger of famine.
While violence eased in Marib, heavy clashes between tribal forces and Huthis erupted in southern al-Bayda governorate; tensions heightened between Southern Transition Council and govt. Following last month’s heavy clashes, fighting eased in Marib governorate as Huthis redirected their forces from northern front lines to southern al-Bayda governorate; local forces from al-Humaiqan tribe – supported by southern separatists and Salafist fighters, many from Yafa tribe – 2-4 July made territorial gains, reportedly including in az-Zahir and as-Sawmah districts, in most intense fighting in area in 18 months. By 11 July, Huthis had largely regained territories and began to push into al-Humaiqan tribal territory. Elsewhere, Huthis 4 July reportedly carried out attack on military base in Abyan in rare missile strike on southern region, while cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia continued (see Saudi Arabia). Meanwhile, on diplomatic front, UN efforts at kickstarting ceasefire negotiations effectively halted as approval by UN Security Council’s permanent members of leading candidate Hans Grundberg for new UN special envoy position stalled; outgoing envoy Martin Griffiths 19 July took up new position as UN’s humanitarian chief, leaving Yemen position vacant. Omani officials reportedly continued pushing for ceasefire between Riyadh and Huthis without any progress. In south, tensions rose between the Southern Transitional Council (STC) and internationally-recognised govt. Talks in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh between two sides to discuss implementation of Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement 1 July ended inconclusively; STC accused govt of arresting and attacking its supporters in Shebwa governorate, while govt alleged STC was fostering violent protests and unrest in Shebwa; both accused other of building up forces in Abyan governorate. Tensions stemming from STC President Aydrous al-Zubaidi’s late June reshuffle of STC-aligned security forces continued; move seen as attempt to consolidate control in southern Aden city’s state and parallel institutions. STC leader and Aden Governor Ahmed al-Lamlas 14 July announced formation of “popular security committees”, which govt viewed as attempt to reinforce STC’s position in city. Yemeni Riyal hit historic low, plunging to YR1,000 to U.S. dollar on 12 July, marking 72% depreciation of pre-war value.
Huthis reinvigorated offensive in Marib governorate, raising prospect of all-out summer offensive in coming month, while nationwide ceasefire talks remained stalled. In north, after brief lull in fighting in first half of June between Huthis and govt-aligned forces, hostilities 19 June escalated in Marib governorate, with Huthis stepping up drone and missile attacks in Marib and across border in Saudi Arabia; fighting fuelled fears that Huthis may launch long-anticipated offensive to coincide with summer dust storms that limit Saudi-led coalition's airstrike capacity. Huthis’ seizure of Marib city and surrounding oil and gas facilities could trigger mass displacement and cut off 90% of country’s petroleum gas supply. Huthis claimed Saudi-led coalition 5, 18, 21 June carried out airstrikes in Marib and Saada governorates while Saudi air defences 19 June intercepted 17 Huthi drones launched toward kingdom (see Saudi Arabia). Meanwhile, ceasefire negotiations remain deadlocked. Omani mediation delegation 5-11 June travelled to capital Sanaa to meet Huthi leaders to discuss UN-backed ceasefire initiative. Huthis maintained position on unilateral reopening of Hodeida port and Sanaa air-port as pre-condition for ceasefire talks and demanded withdrawal of foreign forces from Yemen. Saudi and Hadi govts insisted issues be treated as package, as discussed in 2020. Outgoing UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in his last UN Security Council briefing 15 June painted “bleak picture” of conflict and expressed hope Omani mediation process will “bear fruit”. In sign of growing U.S. frustration with lack of progress, U.S. Envoy for Yemen Timothy Lenderking 17 June blamed Huthis for failed ceasefire talks. Meetings between govt and Southern Transitional Council (STC) in Saudi capital Riyadh on implementation of 2019 Riyadh Agreement stalled. STC 18 June suspended participation, citing govt intransigence; STC 21 June denied rejecting Riyadh Agreement and said it agreed to Hadi govt’s return to southern city Aden as soon as possible. STC 26 June said it would end all communication with parties to Riyadh Agreement. Protests in south occurred throughout month, including in Aden and Taiz city, amid water and electricity shortages and ongoing depreciation of Yemeni riyal.
Huthis continued assault in north as ceasefire talks remained stalled; meanwhile, tensions between govt and southern separatists persisted in southern city Aden. In north, intense fighting continued throughout month. Huthi offensive in Marib governorate halted as its forces met stiff resistance from govt-aligned forces and Saudi-led coalition airstrikes along mountainous ground west of Marib city; while Huthis appeared to remain intent on seizing Marib, ongoing Saudi-Iran security talks (see Saudi Arabia) could offer opportunity to prevent destructive battle of Marib city. On diplomatic front, UN Sec-Gen António Guterres 12 May confirmed Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths due to be next UN humanitarian coordinator, raising speculation over his successor as Yemen envoy. Griffiths and U.S. Envoy Timothy Lenderking throughout month expressed frustration over lack of progress in ceasefire talks with Huthis; Griffiths 12 May described Huthi assault on Marib as “relentless” and 26 May concluded three-day visit in Saudi Arabia where he met senior Saudi and Yemeni govt officials; Huthis reportedly maintained their support for nationwide ceasefire contingent upon unilaterally reopening Hodeida port and Sanaa airport. In south, ongoing tensions between Yemeni govt and pro-independence Southern Transitional Council (STC) risked imperilling Saudi-brokered Nov 2019 Riyadh agreement. Widespread electricity shortages in Aden city continued while prices of local goods rose due to ongoing depreciation of Yemeni riyal. Following his return to Yemen after two years on 1 May, STC President Aydrous al-Zubaid criticised govt for failing to implement Riyadh agreement and starving Aden of resources; dispute with govt also persisted over appointment of senior officials to political posts. Political tensions between govt and STC raised prospect of renewed clashes in Abyan governorate, where govt- and STC-aligned forces are positioned.
Hostilities in Taiz and Marib governorates continued between Huthis and govt-backed forces while tensions between separatists and govt persisted in south. Fighting continued throughout month between Huthis and govt-aligned forces in Taiz governorate as latter sought to open road access to Aden city and Red Sea coast in attempt to break Huthi siege of Taiz city and relieve pressure on Marib governorate. Fears rose that Huthis may be planning more attacks in Marib governorate in May aimed at securing tactical positions ahead of new offensive in summer months when dust storms will likely limit Saudi-led coalition’s ability to provide defensive air support. Huthis late April intensified offensive and advanced deeper into Marib, seizing control of territory to west of Marib city; fighting reportedly killed dozens of Huthi and govt fighters, including senior military official Major General Abdullah al-Hadhiri on 24 April. On diplomatic front, as UN Security Council Resolution 2216 marked its sixth anniversary on 14 April, efforts to broker ceasefire remained stalemated as Huthis continued to reject Riyadh’s unveiling in March of “an initiative to end the Yemeni crisis”, largely reiteration of Riyadh’s position in year-long UN-led negotiations. In south, tensions continued between govt and pro-independence Southern Transitional Council (STC) in Aden amid electricity shortages and protests as STC accused govt of purposely withholding services in city; discord also centred on series of military, judicial and local appointments made by President Hadi, with STC claiming they were not consulted despite formation of unity govt in Dec 2020; popular anger could rise further in summer months if increased demand for electricity is not met. Meanwhile, Huthis continued cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia (see Saudi Arabia).
Huthis continued offensive in Marib and cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia, while govt and Huthi forces clashed along Red Sea Coast and in Taiz and Hajja regions; anti-govt protests erupted in south. In north, Huthis and govt-aligned forces throughout month fought heavily in western and southern Marib governorate; Huthis claimed limited gains around Marib dam south west of Marib city while govt and Saudi-backed forced made repeated attempts to seize control of highway connecting Marib city with Huthi-held Sanaa and al-Jawf in west; threat of Huthi assault to take Marib city remained distinct possibility. Huthis continued drone and missile attacks on targets inside Saudi Arabia (see Saudi Arabia); Riyadh 7, 21 March launched airstrikes on targets inside capital Sanaa for first time since beginning of year. Fighting also broke out in Hodeida, Taiz and Hajja governorates as govt-aligned forces early March launched new offensives on Huthi positions in attempt to relieve pressure on Marib; govt-aligned forces 9 March reportedly seized mountaintop positions west of Taiz city. On diplomatic front, U.S. Yemen Envoy Timothy Lenderking throughout month stepped up outreach to Huthis, reportedly proposing plan that calls for nationwide ceasefire in exchange for lifting restrictions on Sanaa airport and Hodeida’s ports as well as national salary payment mechanism. Riyadh 22 March announced “an initiative to end the Yemeni crisis”, largely reiteration of existing peace proposal that Huthis called “nothing new”. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken and UK, France and German FMs 24 March met to discuss peace efforts; Blinken 25 March held call with Yemeni PM Saeed, stressing need for ceasefire and inclusive peace agreement. In south, protests erupted mid-month in Aden city over deteriorating economic conditions, including repeated blackouts, fuel shortages and food price hikes, with Yemeni riyal sliding to YR900 to dollar; protesters 16 March stormed presidential Ma’shiq palace, where PM Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed has been based since late Dec. Riyadh 25 March allowed fuel shipments to enter Huthi-held Hodeida port for first time in almost two months. UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres 2 March expressed disappointment after donors pledged only $1.7bn for UN’s humanitarian efforts, $1bn less than 2019 pledges.
Huthis intensified military offensive in Marib governorate, threatening further escalation in area, while U.S. changed course to address conflict with renewed focus on mediation. In some of heaviest fighting since 2018, Huthis mid-month significantly stepped up their year-long offensive in Marib governorate where they advanced in north west, west and south of province, making particular progress in western district of Sirwah some 20km from Marib city. Looming battle for Marib city and nearby oil and gas production facilities could trigger more mass displacement, deepen country’s humanitarian and economic crisis, and spark renewed armed conflict in south and along Red Sea coast in March. Govt-aligned forces late Feb announced imminent counter-offensive to expel Huthi forces from Marib governorate, but Huthis held recent gains by end of Feb. Rebels also intensified cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia (see Saudi Arabia). In major policy shifts, U.S. President Biden 4 Feb announced that U.S. will halt “offensive support” for Saudi-led coalition’s war effort in Yemen, including transfer of precision-guided munitions, while “stepping up” diplomatic support for UN-led mediation; appointed veteran diplomat Timothy Lenderking as new U.S. special envoy to Yemen; and, lastly, revoked Trump administration’s designation of Huthi movement and its three top leaders as “foreign terrorists”. In renewed diplomatic push, Lenderking 22 Feb-3 March travelled to several Gulf countries to meet govt officials and UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths. Meanwhile, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock 18 Feb briefed UN Security Council on Yemen, warning of “worst famine the world has seen in decades”. UN 21 Feb announced that talks proceeding since 24 Jan between Huthis and govt on potential prisoner swap failed to reach agreement.
Outgoing U.S. administration designated Huthi group and leaders as terrorists, potentially imperilling aid and diplomatic efforts and risking Huthi retaliation. In one of its final acts in office, outgoing U.S. Trump administration 11 Jan designated Huthi movement as Foreign Terrorist Organisation and Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity, and three top leaders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, all of which came into force on 19 Jan. Move comes after Huthis early Jan warned of “reciprocal responses” to designation; possible retaliation in Feb could include ban on contact with U.S. citizens, freezing communication channels with UN, and cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and maritime traffic in Red Sea. UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock 14 Jan warned designation would precipitate “a large-scale famine on a scale that we have not seen for nearly 40 years” while UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths same day warned it would have “chilling effect” on his efforts to mediate end to conflict. Speaking at his 19 Jan Senate confirmation hearing, incoming U.S. Sec State Anthony Blinken promised to immediately review designation and launch review of Yemen policy; new U.S. Biden administration 25 Jan approved all transactions involving Huthis for one month while designation faces review, and next day announced temporary pause on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, fighting continued along Yemen’s major front lines in Hodeida, al-Dhale and Marib governorates; intense clashes were reported along Red Sea coast in first two weeks of month, prompting UN mission 7 Jan to issue statement of concern after wedding hall 1 Jan was hit during fighting, reportedly killing five. Huthis 17 Jan reportedly launched projectile into Saudi Arabia that hitvillage in southern Jazan region, injuring three civilians; Huthis denied responsibility of 23 Jan missile attack on Riyadh (see Saudi Arabia). In south, tensions rose between Southern Transitional Council (STC) and govt after President Hadi 15 Jan appointed former PM Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr as head of Shura Council without consulting STC, which accused govt of breaching Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement.
Deadly bombing in Aden city overshadowed long-awaited progress toward implementing Riyadh Agreement, while fighting in north continued. In positive step, govt and pro-independence Southern Transitional Council (STC) moved toward implementation of Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement after Saudi officials 17 Dec announced both sides’ military and security forces had redeployed from Aden and key front lines in Abyan governorate, east of Aden, where new security cordon had been formed by non-aligned Salafist fighters previously based along Yemen’s Red Sea coast; Yemeni state media 18 Dec also announced formation of long-awaited 24-minister cabinet led by returning PM Maen Saeed Abdulmalek to be based in temporary capital Aden. Multiple explosions 30 Dec however rocked Aden airport as new cabinet arrived and disembarked plane, killing at least 26 people and injuring more than 100; second attack reportedly struck Aden’s Mashiq Palace, where cabinet due to be based. In north, after seizing key military base west of Marib city in Nov, Huthi fighters intensified attacks throughout month in southern and north-western Marib; STC-linked forces in al-Dhale governorate in early Dec reported wave of Huthi attacks on front lines between their governorate and Huthi-held Ibb governorate. In south, tensions mounted between govt-affiliated forces and STC over United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s control of two military bases in Shebwa governorate; local media 14 Dec reported exchange of artillery fire around major gas export facility overseen by French oil company Total at Balhaf town in Shebwa governorate; French parliamentarians 12 Dec demanded review of UAE control of terminal, citing concerns over allegations of torture at base. Meanwhile, fears persisted throughout month of potentially imminent U.S. decision to designate Huthis as foreign terrorist organisation that could further dent prospects for stalled UN peace process; Washington 10 Dec sanctioned three Huthi security officials for alleged human rights abuses. Saudi and U.S. officials mid-month blamed Huthis for 13 Dec attack on oil tanker off the port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, although Huthis denied responsibility. Saudi and Yemeni govt officials blamed Huthis for what they termed “terrorist” attack on Aden airport on 30 Dec, strengthening case for U.S. designation.
Clashes continued on northern and southern front lines; U.S.’s likely designation of Huthis as terrorist organisation in Dec could prompt retaliatory attacks and hamper humanitarian operations. U.S. reportedly continued to consider designating Huthi rebel group as Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO); move would have detrimental impact on UN-led mediation efforts, economy and humanitarian situation, and could prompt rebels to launch major retaliatory strikes into Saudi Arabia. UN reportedly confirmed mid-Nov withdrawal of all U.S. staff from capital Sanaa in anticipation of designation. UN Sec-Gen António Guterres 20 Nov warned that Yemen was “in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen for decades”, likely in response to designation rumours. In north, military situation remained largely stalemated with neither govt forces nor Huthis making progress along most active front lines in Marib and al-Jawf governorates, while military activity also decreased in Hodeida and al-Dhale governorates. However, following two weeks of intense clashes, Huthi- and govt-linked media 20 Nov reported Huthis had seized strategically important Mas military camp west of Marib city; if confirmed, group became close to seizing high ground around main highway leading to last major urban govt stronghold. In south, sudden escalation of violence 18 Nov erupted between separatist Southern Transition Council forces and President Hadi loyalists in Abyan governorate; fighting in south and Saudi objections to Hadi cabinet nominees again delayed formation of new unity govt under Riyadh Agreement. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts remained largely stalled as UN attempts to pave way to talks between govt and Huthis through Joint Declaration initiative remained dependent on formation of new unity govt.
Huthis continued their military campaign in north, raising prospect of escalating offensives toward Marib and Hodeida in Nov, while Hadi govt and Huthis implemented major prisoner swap agreement. In north, fighting continued along key front lines throughout month and could further worsen around Marib and Hodeida in Nov. Notably, Huthis reportedly pushed into Marib’s al-Abdiyah and Harib districts. Both pro- and anti-Huthi forces also claimed progress in strategically important Rahabah and Jebel Murad districts; govt-aligned forces in turn claimed progress in their push across northern desert in al-Jawf governorate towards key Huthi-held military base. Skirmishes around Red Sea port city of Hodeida further strained Dec 2018 Stockholm Agreement: Huthis early Oct made concerted push into Durayhimi district, south of Hodeida, and reportedly regained full control of Durayhimi town and its environs; heavy fighting followed on “Kilo 16” front line, stretch of territory along main highway linking Hodeida with northern highlands; Huthi’s capture of Kilo 16 could lead to end of partial siege of city as well as collapse of Dec 2018 ceasefire. In south, violent clashes between United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed forces and local govt-affiliated military forces continued throughout month in and around Taiz city. Hadi govt and pro-independence Southern Transitional Council (STC) 1 Oct swapped total of 58 detainees; reports of clashes between STC and govt reduced during month amid speculation of imminent force redeployments on both sides from Aden city and Abyan governorate and formation of new unity govt. Study by London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine 28 Oct found Aden suffered 2,100 excess deaths between April and Sept 2020, likely due to COVID-19 outbreak. International Committee of Red Cross and UN 15-16 Oct oversaw largest prisoner swap since war began in March 2015: Huthis and govt transferred 1,081 detainees; deal first agreed as part of Dec 2018 Stockholm Agreement but faced persistent delays. More than 240 people 14 Oct arrived in Huthi-held Sanaa from Oman’s capital, Muscat, as part of parallel deal involving Huthis, Saudi Arabia and U.S., facilitated by Oman, that saw release of two U.S. nationals detained by Huthis in past two years.
Huthi military campaign continued in north amid renewed clashes around Hodeida port; in south, govt and separatists resumed talks. In north, Huthis throughout month made new gains in oil-rich Marib governorate and consolidated control over territory in neighbouring al-Bayda governorate. Huthis mid-Sept negotiated truce with elements of Murad tribe in al-Mahaliya, thereafter claiming to control the territory. Huthis also continued to launch cross-border missile attacks on Saudi Arabia in apparent attempt to force Riyadh into renewing direct talks that they hoped would allow them to side-step Hadi govt in peace process; Huthis early Sept claimed communications channels with Saudis had become more active. In Taiz in north, clashes early Sept broke out between United Arab Emirates (UAE)-affiliated and govt forces on one hand and Islah-backed military and security forces on other; UAE-backed forces also clashed with Huthi fighters around Red Sea port city of Hodeida throughout month, raising prospect that govt may withdraw from Dec 2018 Stockholm agreement that prevented govt assault on Hodeida. Hadi govt continued to halt fuel imports to Hodeida port amid ongoing spat with Huthis over collection of revenues. In south, govt and separatist Southern Transition Council (STC) mid-Sept resumed power-sharing talks after STC withdrew from talks late Aug citing govt attacks on its forces; both sides, however, continued tit-for-tat attacks in Abyan governorate. Meanwhile, on diplomatic front, UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths mid-Sept presented latest draft of his “Joint Declaration” initiative to Huthis and Hadi govt; initiative calls for nationwide ceasefire, economic and humanitarian confidence-building measures and national political talks. Hadi govt and Huthis 27 Sept agreed on prisoner exchange deal first outlined in Stockholm agreement following talks in Geneva, Switzerland; Huthis to release 400 prisoners while govt will release 681 prisoners in deal Griffiths hailed as “very important milestone”; exchanges to take place mid-Oct.
Huthis escalated their military offensive in Marib governorate while UN peace efforts remained deadlocked. In north, following end of Eid al-Adha holiday, Huthis 2 Aug ramped up their multi-front military campaign to take control of oil-rich Marib governorate – Hadi govt’s last major urban stronghold in north Yemen – and surrounding governorates with sustained attacks on tribal and govt positions in al-Jawf, Marib and al-Bayda governorates. Huthis and govt both claimed to have inflicted significant losses on rival forces in al-Jawf throughout month. Saudi-led coalition 20 Aug said it intercepted drone launched by Huthis from capital Sanaa, reflecting recent trend of intensifying cross-border attacks. In south, Riyadh 2 Aug helped broker agreement between Hadi govt and separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) over reappointment of current PM Maen Abdulmalik Saeed as well as appointment of pro-STC governor and neutral security chief in Aden city, but within days clashes between two sides broke out again in southern governorate of Abyan. STC 25 Aug announced it had withdrawn from Nov 2019 Riyadh agreement, citing “irresponsible behaviour by parties”. Tensions among anti-Huthi groups intensified after clashes erupted in Taiz city between pro-govt forces allied with Islah, Yemen’s main Sunni Islamist party, and rival groups with ties to United Arab Emirates, in early August. Huthis and Hadi govt intensified their criticisms of UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths for alleged bias: Huthis accused UN of lack of balance following UN report on violations of children rights officially published 23 Aug, while Hadi govt rejected UN’s July peace proposal on grounds it “undermines the govt’s sovereignty”. Meanwhile, Huthis 15 Aug reportedly agreed to issue visas to team of UN technical experts to inspect floating oil storage facility, FSO Safer, off coast of Huthi-held Hodeida port; facility reportedly holds around 1mn barrels of oil at risk of leaking, threatening closure of port. Huthis 20 Aug announced that security operation in al-Baydah province consolidated territorial control, and killed Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Al-Walid Al-Adani.