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Peace talks collapsed and fighting escalated. UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed 6 Aug announced talks suspended for one month; govt and Huthi rebels disagreed over sequencing of withdrawal of rebel forces from cities, disarmament and formation of unity govt. Huthis increased rocket attacks into Saudi Arabia and tried to hold territory there as Saudi Arabia-led coalition resumed airstrikes on capital Sanaa after three months’ break and on Huthi northern strongholds. Saudi-led coalition airstrikes 13 Aug killed nineteen people, mostly children in Saada province (NW), 15 Aug hit Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Hajjah (NW) killing fifteen. Saudi-led coalition renewed efforts to retake Sanaa through NW entrance at Nehm. Tens of thousands rallied in Sanaa 20 Aug in support of Huthi rebels and ex-President Saleh; Saudi-led coalition same day bombed Sanaa, reportedly killing three civilians. U.S. Sec State Kerry 25 Aug proposed new peace plan to form unity govt; Huthi rebels 28 Aug said they would restart talks when Saudi-led coalition stopped bombing. Islamic State suicide bombing on pro-govt militia compound in Aden 29 Aug killed at least 60.
Talks between govt and Huthi rebels faltered as fighting continued in Yemen and escalated across Yemen-Saudi Arabia border. Talks resumed in Kuwait 16 July after two-week break but parties failed to agree on sequencing of political solution and military withdrawals; Kuwait extended 30 July deadline for deal to 7 Aug. Huthis and ex-President Saleh’s General People’s Congress party 28 July formed joint Supreme Political Council to replace Huthi’s ruling Revolutionary Committee. Neither side made significant military gains. Govt reinforced troops north of Sanaa in Nihm, al-Jawf and Marib and reiterated threats to retake Sanaa by force. Clashes escalated between Huthi-Saleh forces and Saudi security forces at Yemeni-Saudi border, Huthis launched at least two ballistic missiles into Saudi territory and Saudi-led coalition bombed Huthi positions. Fighting in Taiz in S continued. Two suicide bombings at military checkpoints 18 July west of Mukalla in SE claimed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) killed at least eleven people. Militants carried out car bombings and attempted assassinations in Abyan governorate and Aden; AQAP sub-group Ansar al-Sharia claimed 6 July attack on al-Solban military base and 15 July attempted killing of governor and police chief in Aden.
Fighting between Saudi-led coalition forces and Huthi rebels continued as peace talks made slow progress, UN 29 June said talks adjourned until 15 July. Battle for Taiz continued throughout month; over 250 fighters and civilians reportedly killed and injured 3-4 June. Fighting continued in north and intensified in southern Shabwa and Lahj governorates. UAE-backed forces increased arrests of suspected alQaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in southern Hadramout governorate, 9 June raided HQ of Sunni Islamist Islah Party in Mukalla and arrested director for suspected ties with AQAP. Multiple suicide bombings and other attacks targeting security forces 27 June in Mukalla claimed by Islamic State (IS) killed at least 42 people. PM bin Dagher and several ministers returned from exile to Aden 6 June; several officials left days later amid persistent insecurity. UN-sponsored talks in Kuwait bore some fruit: Saudi-led coalition released 52 child detainees 5 June and HuthiSaleh forces released 187 prisoners. Separately local tribes 18 June mediated release in Taiz of 76 pro-govt fighters in exchange for 118 Huthis.
Peace talks between govt and Huthi/Saleh bloc progressed slowly, as fighting continued. Parties 26 May said they had agreed to exchange prisoners, but had not yet agreed numbers; 30 May discussed creation of mixed military committees to oversee withdrawal of Huthis and allies. Huthi rebels launched at least three missiles at Saudi Arabia from northern governorates provoking it to escalate bombing on Huthi positions. Saudi-led coalition 14 May began sending significant reinforcements to Marib governorate east of Sanaa; spokesman said coalition would take Sanaa militarily if talks fail. Saudi-led coalition-backed fighters 28 May launched offensive in Shabwa governorate taking territory from Huthi/Saleh forces on Shabwa-Marib border. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Islamic State (IS) attacked Yemeni forces in eastern Mukalla: suicide bomber 11 May wounded military commander of Hadramout region and killed eight others, IS claimed 12 May attack on naval base and military compound and 15 May suicide bomb that killed 25 police recruits. IS claimed 23 May suicide car bombing that killed at least 40 army recruits in Aden. Pro-govt southern separatist militias 8 May expelled from southern Aden hundreds of northerners accused of having links with Huthis, President Hadi called move “unacceptable”.
UN-sponsored talks between govt and Huthi/Saleh bloc began 21 April, two days late, after Huthi and former President Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) delegation 17 April refused to attend until UN envoy assured them Saudi Arabia-led coalition would respect 10 April cessation of hostilities and that agenda had not been changed without their approval. Parties agreed new agenda for talks 26 April. Govt suspended participation in joint sessions 1 May after Huthis 30 April seized Amaliqa military base N of Sanaa. Fighting continued including in Taiz (S), Marib (E) and Nihm (NE of Sanaa). In south govt-aligned Yemeni fighters backed by coalition airstrikes and United Arab Emirates troops 24 April retook Hadramout provincial capital, Mukalla, and environs from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Suspected U.S. drone strike reportedly killed three AQAP leaders 25 April in Zinjibar, NE of Aden. In Aden, suicide car bomb exploded 28 April outside security chief’s home, wounding at least two people.
Ceasefire agreements and commitment to talks in April raised hopes for possible de-escalation of conflict. Saudia Arabia and Huthis early March agreed to halt hostilities along Yemen-Saudi Arabia border and exchanged prisoners, nine Saudis for 109 Yemenis; agreement paved way for wider negotiations. UN envoy 23 March said cessation of hostilities between govt and Huthi/Saleh bloc would begin 10 April, followed by talks in Kuwait one week later. Violence continued elsewhere: anti-Huthi forces 12 March captured territory in southern Taiz area, partially breaking siege on Taiz city, but Huthi/Saleh forces reportedly regained much lost territory late March. Saudi-led coalition airstrike in NW Hajjah governorate 15 March killed 119 civilians, including 22 children. Coalition spokesman 17 March said major combat operations ending soon. Gunmen 4 March attacked nursing home in Aden, killing sixteen civilians. Government forces 12-13 March fought al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Aden’s Mansoura district, reportedly regained control of parts of Mansoura 30 March. U.S. 22 March launched airstrike on AQAP training camp near Mukalla, killing over 50 militants, suspected drone strike 30 March reportedly killed four AQAP militants. Three suicide bombers 25 March attacked checkpoints in Aden killing 26, injuring dozens, Islamic State claimed responsibility.
Military stalemate persists as disagreement over ceasefire conditions stalls next round of UN talks. Saudi Arabia-backed pro-govt forces early month launched offensive in north to capture territory from Huthis; fighting continues over and around the strategic Fardhat Nihm military base, 70km NE of rebel-held capital Sanaa. UN humanitarian chief 16 Feb criticised all parties for obstructing aid, UN special envoy 17 Feb asked UNSC to push for ceasefire. In south, Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continued to expand military operations and influence: AQAP early month captured towns in Shebwa and Abyan governorates. Multiple attacks in Aden, govt’s temporary capital: AQAP fighters 8-10 Feb clashed with govt forces; gunmen 16 Feb attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate Aden’s governor and security chief; IS claimed 17 Feb suicide bombing that killed at least thirteen army recruits; gunman 22 Feb killed senior army officer. Suspected U.S. drone strike 14 Feb killed IS leader Jalal Belaidi.
Fighting intensified as Saudi-backed coalition stepped up air campaign, mostly targeting Sanaa, in response to Huthi/Saleh bloc cross-border incursions and rocket attacks, after ending temporary truce 2 Jan (which in practice was never honoured by either side); UNSC 5 Jan urged warring parties to resume ceasefire. Rights groups accused Saudi-led coalition of dropping cluster munitions in Sanaa 6 Jan. Leaked UN panel of experts report 27 Jan accused Saudi airstrikes of targeting civilians in a “widespread and systematic” manner; Saudi-led coalition 31 Jan said it had launched investigation. Huthi/Saleh forces and Saudi-backed coalition redoubling efforts to gain new territory in disputed areas: Saudi-backed govt forces 6 Jan reportedly landed by sea at Red Sea port of Maydee near border and on 24 Jan landed military vehicles and reinforcements to retake other border territories as well as Red Sea coast from Huthis; battle continued over western parts of Marib province and southern city Taiz, where Huthi/Saleh forces maintained blockade. Yemeni military officers supported by Saudi-led coalition 26 Jan announced preparations to “liberate” Huthi-controlled governorate Dammar, south of Sanaa. UN-sponsored talks scheduled for 14 Jan delayed as both sides made new demands for restarting negotiations: Huthis calling for ceasefire and Hadi govt insisting Huthis lift siege of Taiz, release additional political prisoners. Huthis 14 Jan released detained minister and four activists in move aimed at renewing ceasefire. Escalating regional tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran further complicated peace prospects (see Iran). Iran 7 Jan accused Saudi Arabia of airstrike on its embassy in Sanaa; Riyadh denied. Lawlessness and expansion of jihadi groups continued to plague south, particularly Aden; car bomb 17 Jan reportedly killed ten outside Aden security chief’s home; another suicide car bombing 28 Jan killed at least eleven outside presidential palace.
Second round of UN-sponsored peace talks between warring parties in Switzerland 15-20 Dec failed to produce diplomatic breakthrough following disagreements over proposed prisoner exchange and repeated violations of a ceasefire; Hadi govt remains focused on implementing UNSC Resolution 2216, Huthi/Saleh bloc on changing govt. Military stalemate continued despite some gains by anti-Huthi forces in the north. Saudi-led coalition 15 Dec announced seven-day ceasefire, immediately broken by both sides; ceasefire announcement came day after coalition airstrikes reportedly killed at least nineteen civilians in north and south. Huthis and aligned military forces increased cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia; rocket attack near Bab al-Mandeb 14 Dec killed dozens of coalition forces, including two senior Saudi and Emirati army commanders. Huthi/Saleh bloc continued blockade of Taiz, repelling ground campaign organised by coalition to capture city. Govt/Saudi-led coalition 15 Dec launched offensive on Huthi strongholds in north, gaining territory in Hajjah, Jawf and Marib and pushing into Sanaa province 21 Dec. Fighting between Huthi/Saleh bloc and govt/Saudi-led coalition 19 Dec killed at least 68 including 28 govt troops and 40 Huthi fighters near NW town of Haradh.
Fighting intensified in and around Taiz province as both Huthi/Saleh bloc and govt/Saudi-led coalition sought military gains ahead of second round of UN-sponsored peace talks. Huthis and aligned military forces early Nov captured lost border territories in Dalia and Lahj governorates; tightened blockade of Taiz, south of capital Sanaa. Govt/Saudi-led coalition 16 Nov announced major ground operation to recapture Taiz; hundreds of additional Sudanese troops arrived in Aden 9 Nov; President Hadi 17 Nov returned from exile in Saudi Arabia to oversee offensive. Coalition airstrikes in Sanaa decreased in response to international pressure. Govt and Huthi/Saleh bloc remain committed to UN-sponsored talks, scheduled for December. Lawlessness, including assassination of two security officers 1 Nov, and al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) attacks continued in South: roadside bomb 9 Nov reportedly killed at least sixteen govt soldiers in Marib province. IS 20 Nov reportedly killed at least nineteen govt soldiers and 35 militants in E Hadramout.
Large-scale deadly violence continued throughout month: military stalemate between Huthi/Saleh bloc and govt/Saudi-led coalition ongoing, with both sustaining heavy losses. Saudi-led coalition early Oct made gains in coastal areas around Bab al-Mandeb. Huthis increased cross-border missile attacks: fighters 15 Oct launched Scud missile at Saudi air base in Kharnis Mushait provoking barrage of Saudi airstrikes on Sanaa. Some diplomatic progress: President Hadi 18 Oct accepted invitation from UNSG Ban to resume peace talks. Security continued to deteriorate in south: Islamic State (IS) branch 6 Oct claimed responsibility for series of deadly car bombs targeting govt facilities in Aden that killed at least eleven Yemenis and four UAE soldiers. Criminality and political tensions also on rise: southern resistance fighters appropriated private houses and stormed govt facilities in Aden. Thousands rallied 14 Oct, anniversary of start of 1960s war against British occupation, calling for independence. Médecins Sans Frontières 26 Oct claimed field hospital in Saada destroyed by coalition airstrikes.
Violence increased again as front lines in battle between Huthi/Saleh forces and Saudi-backed coalition moved north, reaching stalemate around Taiz city to south and Marib to east of capital Sanaa. Airstrike on reported wedding party in Al-Wahijah village, Taiz province, 29 Sept killed dozens: widely condemned including by UNSG Ban; coalition denied responsibility. Fighting especially intense in Marib province, source of Sanaa’s gas and electricity supplies and home to strong anti-Huthi, Sunni tribal resistance: 77 coalition forces killed 4 Sept in reported rocket attack by Huthi/Saleh fighters; coalition responded with heaviest aerial bombardment of Sanaa to date, targeting military camps and buildings but also striking civilian areas. Progress on political front remained minimal: UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed 10 Sept announced Yemeni govt and Huthi/Saleh bloc agreed to talks; govt withdrew 13 Sept. FM Riyadh Yassin 26 Sept criticised UNSC response to crisis, said it had not put sufficient pressure on Huthis. Huthi/Saleh delegation 20 Sept met with UN special envoy, released two U.S., one UK and three Saudi hostages. PM Baha and several other ministers 16 Sept returned to Aden, President Hadi visited 22 to 25 Sept. Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for 24 Sept suicide bombing of mosque in Sanaa that killed at least 25. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula increased presence and activities throughout south.
Anti-Huthi ground forces moved into southern governorates throughout Aug after capturing Aden late July, took al-Anad airforce base 3 Aug then pushed Huthis from Lahj, Dalia, Ayban and Shebwa. Anti-Huthi coalition airstrikes 18 Aug crippled Hodeida port which serves north of country. Huthis reinforced positions in Sanaa and took back some territory in Taiz during intense clashes. Huthis for first time offered significant concessions at UN mediation 8-9 August, including withdrawal from cities in accordance with UNSCR 2216. Govt rejected negotiations; both sides now preparing for potential battle in capital. Saudi-backed coalition began deployment of ground troops and heavy weapons to Marib governorate, east of capital. Amnesty International 18 August accused both sides of killing civilians, possible war crimes; UN aid official condemned Hodeida attack as violation of international law.
Fighting intensified throughout month as hopes for Ramadan ceasefire failed to materialise and Saudi/anti-Huthi coalition launched new military offensive. Huthi/Saleh alliance 14 July suffered first major defeat since start of war in March when Yemeni fighters trained in Saudi Arabia and backed by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes captured Aden international airport. Fighters consolidated control over most of Aden, made some progress in southern governorates including retaking military bases in Shebwa and Lahj, during military push dubbed “Operation Golden Arrow”; coalition forces said will use Aden to launch further military operations. UN-brokered ceasefire announced for 10 July broken almost immediately by coalition airstrikes; Huthis 10 July threatened significant military escalation in response to increased airstrikes. Saudi-led coalition 25 July announced unilateral five-day ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid, immediately broken by both sides. Ceasefire announcement came day after coalition airstrike killed at least 65 civilians in residential compound in Mokha, Human Rights Watch said killings an apparent war crime. UN 2 July raised Yemen to level-three humanitarian crisis; humanitarians continued to warn of coming famine if naval blockade is not eased; World Food Program’s ship berthed in Aden 21 July for first time since conflict began. UN raised civilian death toll to 1,900 as of 28 July, with 202 deaths in previous twelve days.
UN-brokered consultations between warring parties in Geneva 15-19 June failed to reach agreement on ceasefire or humanitarian pause. Huthi/Saleh bloc continued to view exiled Yemeni govt as illegitimate and largely irrelevant; govt maintained unrealistic demands for Huthi disarmament and withdrawal from large blocs of territory. Huthi/Saleh coalition continued to advance: captured capital of Jawf province on border with Saudi Arabia 14 June; made gains in Marib province; 6 June fired scud missile into Saudi territory. Saudi military and Yemeni fighters reinforced border position, increased cross-border rocket attacks ahead of Geneva consultations. Hiraak fighters gained upper hand against Huthis in Dalia governorate. Humanitarian situation continued to worsen: UN mid-June said over 80% of population in need of aid, $1.6bn needed to tackle “looming catastrophe”. Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) 17 June killed over 30 in series of bombings at Zayid mosques and Huthi HQ in Saana. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader killed 16 June in U.S. drone strike.
Conflict increasingly intractable as it becomes tied to regional Saudi-Iran power struggle. Saudi coalition and Huthi/Saleh bloc feeding cycle of escalating violence: small group of special forces, reportedly Emirati, 4 May landed in Aden raising spectre of ground invasion; in retaliation Huthi-affiliated tribes 5-6 May launched cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia killing several civilians; Saudis responded with intense air raids in Sanaa and Huthi stronghold Saada. Huthi/Saleh bloc gained ground throughout month despite air campaign and blockade, especially in Aden, Taiz and Shebwa. Iran made several attempts to break blockade, including sending ship ostensibly loaded with humanitarian supplies sparking war of words with Saudis; tensions lessened when UN 20 May announced ship would dock for inspection in Djibouti. Five-day ceasefire held 12-16 May; Saudi-led airstrikes resumed 18 May in response to repeated Huthi violations of truce; 27 May killed at least 80 near Saudi border and in Sanaa, deadliest day since strikes began. New UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed working to revive negotiations including proposed consultations 28 May but neither side ready for genuine compromise: Hadi govt said Huthi withdrawal from captured territory precondition for negotiations. Saudis 16 May convened GCC-sponsored conference in Riyadh: Yemeni participants called for joint Arab force to oversee Huthi withdrawal from cities, speedy return of govt in exile, provision of anti-Huthi resistance with weapons and logistical support. UNCHR estimated at least 1,037 civilians killed and 2,453 injured 26 March to 20 May.
Saudi Arabia 21 April announced end to five-week air campaign against Huthis and security forces aligned with former President Saleh. Both Saudi and Huthi actions suggest preparing for long fight: Huthi leader, Abdulmalik al-Huthi 19 April refused to surrender; Saudi-led air attacks ongoing, intensifying in southern and western provinces, bombed Sanaa airport late-month. Naval and air blockade to stop Huthis from resupplying still in place, preventing food, medical supplies and other products entering country; Huthis preventing aid convoys from entering Aden. ICRC said humanitarian situation catastrophic; UNOCHA estimated over 300,000 displaced. UNSC 14 April imposed arms embargo on Huthis and allied military units. Iranian-dispatched ships reportedly bound for Yemen turned around 23 April; U.S. dispatched two additional warships to Yemeni waters, reportedly to deter arms shipments to Huthis. UNSG Ban 25 April appointed Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as Yemen special envoy to replace Jamal Benomar, who left post amid criticisms from Gulf countries. Al-Qaeda 3 April captured govt buildings, freed prisoners and looted central bank in Al-Mukalla, Hadramout.
Violence increased as tensions tipped over into all-out war and UN human rights chief Zeid warned country “on the verge of total collapse”. Saudi Arabia and ten other (mostly Arab, Sunni) countries 26 March launched “operation decisive storm”, countrywide air campaign against Huthis and allied military units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh; goal is to restore President Hadi’s govt, but operation risks pulling Yemen further into Saudi-Iranian regional struggle, augmenting sectarian divides, closing any hope of negotiated political solution. Political crisis continued to deepen as violence overtook UN-brokered negotiations. Fighting broke out in earnest between Hadi and forces associated with Huthis and former President Saleh in Aden 19 March. Huthis 19-20 March bombed presidential residence in Aden, moved northern military units and other forces southwards. Clashes ongoing between Hadi-aligned groups in Aden, backed by Saudi-led airstrikes, and Huthi/Saleh forces. Over 40 refugees killed in air raid on refugee camp in Haradh area near Saudi border 31 March. Al-Qaeda 18 March assassinated Abulkarim al-Khaywani, journalist and liberal voice within Huthi movement; 20 March captured security and local govt buildings in southern Lahj governorate. Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) claimed responsability for 20 March suicide bombings on Zaydi mosques in Sanaa that killed over 130.
Political crisis deepened as Huthis moved to fill void left by late Jan resignation of President Hadi and govt: Huthi leaders 6 Feb announced establishment of revolutionary council, high security committee and parliamentary body charged with electing presidential council. Move triggered immediate international and domestic condemnation: several foreign embassies suspended operations and evacuated diplomats including U.S., EU, UK, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and UAE; all political parties rejected declaration, anti-Huthi protests grew in Sanaa and central provinces. UNSC 15 Feb called on Huthis to relinquish control of state institutions, release president and ministers from house arrest; GCC countries lobbying for diplomatic isolation argued UNSC resolution should have allowed for enforcement under UN Charter’s Chapter Seven. UN 20 Feb brokered agreement on creating transitional council; President Hadi next day escaped Sanaa for southern city of Aden: issued statement reasserting his authority as president, accusing Huthis of coup d’état and calling on body created to oversee implementation of national dialogue outcomes to meet in Aden or Taiz; fears move could further accelerate conflict, territorial disintegration. Groups in several southern and western governorates declared autonomy from Sanaa, many actively prepared to resist Huthis; battle lines increasingly taking sectarian overtones, pitting Shafai (Sunni) areas against Huthis. Popular committees in Aden, funded by Hadi but with unclear loyalties, 16 Feb clashed with govt Special Security Forces allegedly affiliated with Huthis and/or former President Saleh: seized key areas including city’s port, intelligence HQ and other state buildings. Huthis advanced against al-Qaeda (AQAP) in Baydah province, dozens reported killed 14 Feb; AQAP 12 Feb captured military base in Shebwa province. U.S. drone strikes continued including four killed in Baydah 2 Feb.
Govt and President Hadi 22 Jan resigned, throwing political process established through Sept “Peace and National Partnership Agreement” (PNPA) into question and raising prospect of territorial fragmentation, widespread violence. Move followed push by northern Huthis to take complete control of Sanaa 19-20 Jan: surrounded presidential palace, captured additional military positions and state institutions, put Hadi under virtual house arrest. Presidential resignation awaiting approval by parliament; observers fear Huthis could appoint presidential or military committee without adequate buy-in from other groups, causing violent backlash from Shafai (Sunni) areas and southern separatists. Several anti-Huthi demonstrations in Sanaa late month, including by thousands of protesters 24 Jan. Huthi push triggered by dispute with Hadi over draft constitution, especially proposed federal structure; Huthi fighters 17 Jan kidnapped presidential advisor allegedly seeking to force through six-region federalism without Huthi consent. Insurgent leader Abdul-Malik al-Huthi 20 Jan accused Hadi of obstructing PNPA, indicated willingness to remove president. Hadi next day accepted all Huthi demands in return for advisor’s release, Huthi withdrawal from certain military positions; agreement immediately collapsed as Huthis dictated terms of implementation under threat of military force. Security council of Aden governorate 22 Jan announced it would no longer take orders from Sanaa following Hadi’s resignation. Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for 7 Jan attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, same day exploded car bomb outside Sanaa police academy killing over 40; observers warned group gaining strength amid Huthi expansion. Six reported killed in U.S. drone strikes late Jan.
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