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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.