The war in Yemen, which escalated in March 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition intervened on behalf of the internationally recognised government against Huthi rebels aligned with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, has turned a poor country into a humanitarian catastrophe: hunger and fighting could provoke mass famine and waves of refugees; the conflict could destabilise Saudi Arabia; and both sides appear locked in a cycle of escalating violence, derailing UN peace talks. Crisis Group’s focus is on the negotiations: introducing ourselves at key points, shaping the debate, proposing solutions and encouraging stakeholders to modify positions based on our analysis. Concerted effort is required to convince the parties to accept the UN’s roadmap as the basis for a compromise that would end foreign intervention and allow Yemenis to make peace.

CrisisWatch Yemen

Deteriorated Situation

Conflict Risk Alert

U.S. and UK began bombing campaign against Houthis, risking wider escalation, as U.S. “terrorist” designation of group could compound humanitarian crisis and hamper peace process; frontlines displayed signs of possible renewed conflict.

U.S. and UK launched anti-Houthi airstrikes. In major escalation, U.S. and UK 11 Jan launched airstrikes against dozens of Houthi targets in Sanaa, Sa’adah, Taiz, Hajjah and Hodeida governorates, and 13-14, 16-202224, 27 and 31 Jan struck locations in Hodeida, Taiz, Dhamar, al-Bayda, and Sa’adah governorates, citing Houthi attacks on international shipping. Houthis remained defiant, as strikes appeared to inflict limited damage on group’s capabilities or morale and proved counterproductive: Houthis 1517 Jan struck U.S.-operated ships in Gulf of Aden and vowed further action, raising prospect that attacks from both sides could escalate in coming weeks.

U.S. re-designated Houthis terrorist organisation. After removing group from “Foreign Terrorist Organisation” list in Feb 2021, U.S. 17 Jan designated Houthis “Specially Designated Global Terrorist”, citing need to impede funding. Designation may hamper international response to humanitarian crisis, further complicate peace talks between Riyadh and Houthis and dampen prospects of dialogue with other conflict actors.

Local fighting escalated in several regions, threatening to upend de facto truce. Houthi shelling 12 Jan killed two govt soldiers in Hodeida governorate. Houthi drone 14 Jan targeted Shabwa Defence Forces in Marib governorate, killing two soldiers. Houthis next day attacked border guards in al-Jawf governorate, killing two. Giants Brigade 23 Jan claimed it repelled Houthi offensive in Bayhan town, Shabwa, causing casualties. Risk of wider ground fighting along frontlines loomed as Houthis may initiate new major offensive, particularly if U.S. and UK provide support to anti-Houthi groups.

Eastern leaders formed new group; regional proxy competition continued. In move seen as countering separatist Southern Transitional Council’s attempts to assert control in east, prominent local leaders in eastern governorates (Hadramawt, al-Mahra, Shebwa and Socotra) 9 Jan announced formation of single entity to counter external influence and advocate equal representation in any political settlement. Highlighting competition between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates-backed Hadhrami Elite Forces 16 Jan blocked entry of Saudi-backed Nation Shield Forces into Mukalla city.

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In The News

15 Ιαν 2024
What's happening in the Red Sea will have a huge impact on the current political process between the Saudis and Houthis. NPR

Ahmed Nagi

Senior Analyst, Yemen
1 Ιαν 2024
[The] Houthis wanted to send a message: We are the group that is most committed to Gaza, not just in words but in action. CNN

Ahmed Nagi

Senior Analyst, Yemen
9 Απρ 2023
The visit of both the Saudis and the Omanis aims to discuss the final details of the [Yemen] truce extension agreement, which is expected to be announced very soon. Financial Times

Ahmed Nagi

Senior Analyst, Yemen
22 Οκτ 2022
The temporary cessation of hostilities in Yemen, the longest since the start of the war, has given Yemeni civilians much-needed breathing room after eight years of war. Dawn

Veena Ali-Khan

Former Researcher, Yemen

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Ahmed Nagi

Senior Analyst, Yemen
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