February 22 - March 1: Houthis intensify attacks on Hajjah tribes, Hudaydah progress stalls

Friday, February 22

Yemen’s Ministry of Culture provided the government’s first official account of lost cultural property and artifacts since the war began. The government accuses Houthi rebels of smuggling stolen antiquities out of the country and selling them on the black market. Further, many documents and manuscripts have been destroyed and are missing, and some historical sites are under great threat. The government’s account only places blame on the Houthis for the destruction of Yemen’s cultural heritage, despite the fact that the Saudi-led coalition is known to have damaged or destroyed a number of cultural sites in airstrikes.

UNICEF Yemen reports that over 2 million children in Yemen are now out of school. Many schools across Yemen have been damaged or occupied by armed forces, or used to house displaced people. Teachers--like many civil servants--have gone without salaries for much of the war’s duration.

Earlier this month CNN released a report that stated that Saudi Arabia and The United Arab Emirates had transferred US weapons to unaccountable militias. On Thursday, presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren issued a letter with questions about the suspected arms transfer to acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Warren believes addressing the diversion of US weapons is crucial to holding partners accountable and protecting national security.

Houthi militias attacked the Yahiya tribe in Hajjah province today, according to al-Masdar Online.

Saturday, February 23

The UAE backed Security Belt Forces took control of an al-Qaeda training base in Abyan Governorate. Abyan has a reputation as a stronghold for AQAP. On Friday night a military campaign to remove al-Qaeda from Aumaran valley was launched. Thus far, the Security Belt Forces claim to have driven AQAP fighters out of Hadhramawt, large portions of Shabwah, and “90%” of Abyan.

Clashes were reported between Security Belt Forces and al-Qaeda in a number of valleys in al-Mawdiah district, according to southern news outlet Aden al-Ghad.

Sunday, February 24

The Houthis are scheduled to withdraw troops from the ports of Saleef, used for grain, and Ras Isa, an oil terminal, on Monday as the first step in the UN-brokered deal. The second step, Houthi withdrawal from al-Hudaydah Port and a pull-back by coalition forces, will take place at a later time. Successful implementation of the deal is crucial to averting a renewed offensive by UAE-led forces, and guaranteeing commercial and humanitarian access to the ports.

Fighting between the Houthis and Yemeni tribes in Hajjah has intensified. Tribal sources confirm that 45 Houthi fighters have died as a result of the fighting.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and hosts Sweden and Switzerland will convene a pledging conference for the humanitarian response in Yemen. The UN is seeking international support for the 80% of the Yemeni population in need humanitarian assistance. In December the UN asked for $4.2 billion for Yemen. The World Food Program aims to help 12 million people a month in 2019 and will need $1.5 billion.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says the UK will pledge £200 million in aid to Yemen, but that their arms policy toward Saudi Arabia would not change. This comes after recent criticism of Britain’s arms exports to Saudi Arabia.  

Pro-government news site Yemen Now tweeted that a Houthi missile attack in Sa’dah killed and wounded more than 70 civilians.

Monday, February 25

H.J.Res.37 was expected to be considered by the Senate this week. However, Republican leadership has “de-privileged” the resolution, which means that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will not allow a vote on the legislation despite its passage in the House.

Human Rights Watch says that Qatar is threatening to expel a Yemeni national without considering his claim for asylum. The Yemeni national should qualify for asylum under Qatari law. However, for Qatar’s asylum law to go in to effect, a Committee for Political Asylee Affairs needs to be created, but there is no timeline for when this will be.

President Trump announced on Twitter that Danny Burch, and US citizen who had been held hostage in Yemen for 18 months, had been freed with the help of the UAE. Burch worked for the Yemeni Safer oil company at the time he was abducted.

Al-Masdar Online reports that according to human rights sources in Hajjah province, 105 civilians were killed in Houthi attacks on the Hajur tribes in Hajjah over the past month.

Tuesday, February 26

For the first time in six months, UN aid officials have been able to reach the Red Sea Mills, which holds a vital grain supply. Although this is a major breakthrough, the UN needs sustained access, which will come from progress in the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement.

In response to the decision on Monday that deemed H.J.Res.37 “de-privileged,” Senator Bernie Sanders is moving ahead with a plan to discharge S.J.Res.7, the same resolution that passed in the Senate in December. The bill has already been deemed privileged, and is identical to the pre-amendment version of H.J.Res.37. If the resolution can pass in the Senate a second time, House Democrats may still have trouble preventing another round of amendments.

It is believed that thousands of civilians are besieged and more than 100 inhabitants have died as a result of the ongoing fighting between the Houthis and local fighters led by tribal leaders in the Hajur area of Hajjah province. The Houthis have had control of Hajjah since they seized San’a in 2014. Residents in Hajur do not have access to medical treatment, food, or other essentials. The coalition has not intervened directly, but air dropped medicine, food, and weapons for the first time last Tuesday. However, residents say the supplies were only for fighters and that it was not enough to help them win.

The United Nations pledging conference for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen raised $2.6 billion of its $4 billion goal. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, primary actors in the conflict, pledged $500 million each. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated, however, that the humanitarian response will not be enough the end the crisis and that peace negotiations between the warring sides are needed.

Although phase one of the UN-brokered deal to withdraw from Hudaydah was agreed upon, implementation of the deal seems to have stalled. Mistrust remains an obstacle for the successful implementation of the deal.

After the Trump administration failed to meet the deadline invoked by the Magnitsky act, which required a verdict on whether or not the White House believed the Saudi regime has committed human rights violations, a group of US senators introduced legislation that would require the Director of National Intelligence to submit a public report on the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.

A number of Houthi fighters, including an explosives expert, were killed by the popular resistance movement in al-Bayda province. The popular resistance is a term used to refer to local/tribal forces that have allied with the Hadi government in opposition to the Houthis.

Wednesday, February 27
Journalists have gathered evidence that German weapons are being used by the Saudi-led coalition despite Germany’s ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. During a press conference, the spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel refused to comment on the new reports and only repeated Germany’s current policy on arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The UN Security Council authorized a one-year extension of the sanctions imposed on entities threatening peace, security, and stability in Yemen by Resolution 2140, which has been in place since February of 2014. The latest resolution also renews the provisions of an arms embargo imposed against the Houthis in 2015.

A feature by Al Jazeera highlighted Yemen’s water scarcity,  as around 20 million Yemenis do not have access to water because of the war and preexisting challenges. Yemenis contend with depleted wells, contaminated water, and inability to access aid. Therefore millions of Yemenis are left spending many hours of the day searching for clean drinking water.

Thursday, February 28

After more than two years, the government has paid the salaries of more than 30,000 state employees in Hudaydah.

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt will travel to Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE to hold talks on the conflict in Yemen. Hunt plans to meet with both Houthi and coalition officials.

The Houthis blew up thirteen houses in Hajjah province and executed a man in the city of Ta’iz yesterday, according to Aden al-Ghad.

Friday, March 1

Representatives Lieu (D-CA) and Malinowski (D-NJ) have sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo, co-signed by 11 other members of Congress, demanding an investigation into reports that Saudi Arabia has recruited and deployed Sudanese children to fight in Yemen. US law prohibits the provision of military assistance to states that recruit minors to fight. The White House generally issues waivers for some countries known to violate international laws on child soldiers, including Yemen, but it has not granted a waiver to Saudi Arabia since the war in Yemen began.