February 15-21: UK House of Lords finds arms sales unlawful, Houthis and government agree on first phase of withdrawals in Hudaydah

Friday, February 15

statement by the Saudi-led coalition states that no significant progress has been made in the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement. The coalition accuses the Houthis of intentionally hindering the implementation of the agreement in order to strengthen their own military capabilities. The coalition also claims that the Houthis have made more than 1,400 ceasefire violations.

It was announced that the Houthis are expected to carry out the execution of Asmaa al-Omeissy on Monday, February 18. In regard to Asmaa al-Omeissy’s case, Amnesty International had previously stated that the Houthis are using the judiciary to settle political scores.

Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani is being criticized for interacting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the US-led summit in Warsaw. The Houthis denounced Yamani and accused him of trying to normalize ties with Israel.

Saturday, February 16

The UK House of Lords Select Committee on International Relations has concluded that the British government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia have put the British government on “the wrong side of law,” because these weapons are likely linked to civilian casualties.

The war in Yemen has caused the destruction of 101 heritage and archaeological sites, according to local experts. All parties to the conflict bear responsibility. In addition to destruction, the smuggling of Yemen’s antiquities is another issue. The director-general of the Aden Heritage Center states that government agencies and international organizations are not properly handling this crisis.

Awfaa Al-Naami, country manager of Saferworld who was detained on Monday, January 28 on charges of “harming national security,” has been released by the Houthis.

A body found in Aden today bore evidence of torture, reports al-Masdar Online. The article states that the young man who was killed had been abducted by masked gunmen the previous evening.

Al-Masdar Online reports on a recent meeting of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council in the city of al-Mukalla, Hadhramawt province. The article notes the competition for influence between pro-Hadi and pro-STC politicians in the province, and unrest after a recent military procession held by forces loyal to the STC in Mukalla.

Houthi gunmen abducted three tribal elders of the Bani al-’Abbas tribe in al-Baydha province in central Yemen. The Bani al-’Abbas tribe has a long-standing conflict with the Riyam tribe, who allied early on with the Houthi movement. According to al-Masdar Online, this conflict ended years ago but was revived in 2014 when the Houthis rebelled against the Hadi government.

Sunday, February 17

The UN has stated that the Houthis and Yemeni government have agreed to the first phase of troop withdrawal from Hudaydah. Phase one will see pullback from parts of Hudaydah and the ports of Saleef and Ras Issa. The two parties have also agreed “in principle” on the second phase of redeployments, which would include the port of Hudaydah itself.

Coalition and Yemeni commanders say that hundreds of thousands of unmarked land mines planted by the Houthis have become their most formidable defense. The mines have also killed around 920 civilians and wounded thousands more. This will remain a serious problem in the future as it possible the Houthis have laid more than a million mines. Saudi Arabia says it will spend 40 million to teach Yemeni civilians state-of-the-art mine removal.

Monday, February 18

Nawda al-Dawsari, an expert in tribal politics, reports that a small village in Hajja, Hajwar, has been under heavy shelling by the Houthis for almost a month. However, the Yemeni army and Saudi-led coalition have not taken any action to protect the civilians there.

The Mother of Abductees Association protested today in front of the house of deputy minister of the interior and attorney general in Aden. They are seeking information on detainees, many of whom face abuse and torture in custody.

After announcing her pending execution last week, the Houthis have agreed to release Asmaa al-Omeissy, who was detained with two others because of their alleged association with the coalition. Her release comes after many campaigns on social media calling for justice in her name.

The United Arab Emirates has reportedly signed weapons deals worth $1.3 billion at the opening day of an arms fair in Abu Dhabi. The new deals by the UAE include a package of surface-to-air missiles, which may be in response to claims by the Houthis that they have launched missiles into the UAE, in addition to the ballistic missiles launched into Saudi Arabia.

Independent Yemeni journalist Baseem al-Jenani reports that in the period following the recent withdrawal agreement in Hudaydah, Houthi forces have begun digging a new tunnel in the city, indicating continued defensive preparations.

Tuesday, February 19

Germany halted arms equipment exports to Saudi Arabia in October following the killing of Jamal Kashoggi. At the time, other major weapons exporters to Saudi Arabia, including the United States, Britain, and France, chose not to follow their lead. However, fallout from the German ban is beginning to be felt because some German equipment is needed by British and French arms manufacturers.

In Hajja, in response Houthi shelling, additional tribes have revolted against the Houthis. In turn, the Houthis have cut water supplies to the area. The government and coalition still have not taken any measures to protect local civilians.

Fuad Rajeh reports that the Houthi prosecution referred 10 Yemeni journalists to court on charges of supporting the Saudi-led coalition and disseminating false information. These journalists were arrested in 2015 and have been in jail since.

Wednesday, February 20

Mwatana for Human Rights reported that in 2018 there were at least 624 civilian cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and tortue. The prisoner exchange included in the Stockholm Agreements would ideally see all of these civilians returned to their families.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has asked Germany to lift their ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia. Hunt is worried about the effect the ban would have on British arms manufacturers’ supply chains.

As the number of patients grow, the health system in Yemen continues to deteriorate. There is a new phone app that helps connect blood donors to those in need. The challenge is preserving blood for transfusion.

Al-Masdar Online tweeted that according to local sources, an armed group of Hajur tribesmen arrested a three-person Houthi photography team in Hajjah province. The team was reportedly taking photos in an attempt to claim to the public that the Houthis had gained control over the area.

The Mothers of Abductees Association tweeted that there are 580 people in Ta’iz governorate who have been abducted by Houthi militias and held for over three years, and who have been subjected to torture and privation throughout that time.

Protests were held in Mukalla today over the lack of domestic gas in the city, according to al-Masdar Online.

Al-Masdar Online reports clashes between Houthi militants and residents of al-Tahun district in al-Dhali’ province as Houthi forces try to gain control of the area.

Al-Masdar Online reports that in just one day, approximately 3,000 Houthi-laid mines were destroyed in a single district of Sa’dah province by government forces.

Thursday, February 21

The Houthis reportedly launched a large-scale attack on pro-government forces in al-Hudaydah on Wednesday night. This attack comes a few days after the Houthis and the Yemeni government agreed on phase one of the implementation of a withdrawal of forces from the city and surrounding ports.  

Aid workers are saying that they are being increasingly targeted by the Houthis and are facing threats of attack in Houthi controlled areas. Attacking or obstructing humanitarian workers is an explicit violation of international law.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that future decisions on arms exports to Saudi Arabia would depend on how the conflict in Yemen develops and whether the Stockholm Agreements are implemented. Germany stopped selling arms to Saudi Arabia in November following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

According to al-Masdar Online, Houthi forces bombed thehomeof a pro-Hadi military leader in al-Tahun, al-Dhali’ as clashes continue in the area.