February 8-14: House passes War Powers bill, Houthis clash with tribes in north and south

Friday, February 8

Morocco recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia and has withdrawn from the Saudi-led coalition. Saudi Arabia broadcasted a documentary calling Western Sahara “occupied” by Morocco after Morocco’s minister of foreign affairs told Al Jazeera that Morocco’s participation in the Yemen war had changed due to humanitarian reasons. Ties between the two nations have deteriorated since the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the worsening of the conflict in Yemen.

Saudi state TV reports that the Saudi-led coalition has launched a “targeting operation”--an apparent euphemism for airstrikes--in San’a. The target location was allegedly an area for storing and preparing drones and launch vehicles.

The World Health Organization says 35,000 Yemenis have cancer and 11,000 are diagnosed every year. However, cancer clinics have been been closing, and attaining access to healthcare is becoming increasingly difficult.

Saturday, February 9

The Trump administration did not meet the Friday deadline to report to the Senate on whether or not the White House believed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Sunday, February 10

The Hadi government hopes to escalate its crude oil production to 110,000 barrels per day in 2019, with exports reaching about 75,000 bpd, its oil minister reported. In 2018, Yemen produced an average of 50,000 bpd. The oil minister also reported that Yemen wanted to resume production of liquid natural gas.

Monday, February 11

The UN reports that the grain stored in the Red Sea Mills silos in Hudaydah is at risk of rotting. Aid workers have not had access to the Red Sea Mills facility for five months due to coalition military operations and Houthi landmines, and the urgency of accessing the grain grows every day.

Fighting between government forces and Houthi rebels in Yemen’s southern province of al-Dhali’ has continued for a third day. The fighting was prompted after the Houthis destroyed the house of the tribal sheikh Abdul Jaleel Al Hothaiyfi for allegedly working with the Saudi-led coalition.

Fighting has also escalated in the northern province of Hajjah between the Houthis and the Hajoor tribe, worsening the humanitarian situation there. According to local observers, additional forces from a neighboring tribe have entered that conflict on the side of Hajoor.

The Trump Administration threatened to veto the re-introduction of the war powers resolution, H.J.Res.37, which would end US military support for the Saudi-led coalition, should it pass in both houses of Congress.

Tuesday, February 12

Al-Masdar Online reports that the UAE-backed Abu al-Abbas Brigade, kidnapped a human rights activist, Abu Baker al-Breiky, in Ta’iz governorate and handed him over to UAE forces in Aden. The UAE and its proxies have kidnapped, detained, and tortured hundreds of civilians in southern Yemen since 2015.

Wednesday, February 13

The House of Representatives voted to end American military assistance for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The House resolution, H.J.Res.37, invokes the 1973 War Powers Act, which gives Congress the ability to restrict military deployments undertaken without a formal declaration of war. The Senate is expected to vote within the next month.  H.J.Res.37 included an amendment introduced by Representative Buck (R-CO) that ensures that the US may continue intelligence collection, analysis, and sharing operations with other nations.

The Trump Administration will not certify to Congress that the Saudi-led coalition is attempting to reduce civilian casualties. Previously the State Department validated that the coalition had made a “good faith effort” to reduce civilian casualties, which allowed the United States to continue refueling operations. The certification, which was clearly at odds with evidence collected by observers on the ground, was a requirement imposed by lawmakers via the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt says that saving Yemen’s ceasefire has “a shortening window of opportunity.” The US, UK, UAE, and Saudi Arabia will discuss Yemen on the sidelines of a summit in Warsaw, possibly focusing on an initiative to inject money into Yemen’s central bank.

In Riyadh, the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) concluded in its most recent round of investigations that coalition military operations in Yemen followed procedures that were proper and safe, and acted in accordance with international humanitarian law. JIAT, the coalition’s internal investigation mechanism, has been criticized since the start of the war by experts and human rights groups for whitewashing illegal actions by coalition forces.

Thursday, February 14

Robert Malley, a key advisor on the Middle East under the Obama Administration and now president and CEO of the International Crisis Group, told TRT World that the Obama Administration gave too much support to partner Saudi Arabia and that military support should have been scaled back much sooner. In response to H.J.Res.37, Malley stated that the US needs to find ways to minimize civilian casualties when drawn into conflict.

Fatima Qoba is a displaced 12 year old girl who was carried into a Yemeni malnutrition clinic at 10kg (22 lbs). Fatima’s situation is the latest example of the crisis occurring in Yemen with around 10 million people on the brink of famine. A doctor at the clinic told reporters about the problem of severely malnourished pregnant women who are expected to give birth to underweight children.

Houthi media reports that coalition airstrikes targeted a group of fishermen today in Hudaydah governorate. MSF confirmed that a local hospital treated several fishermen for injuries sustained in the attack.