May 10-June 7: Government disputes Houthis' "withdrawal" from Hudaydah, Houthis attack Saudi oil facilities, European labor unions protest arms shipments, US and KSA ratchet up tensions with Iran

Friday, May 10

The Houthis have agreed to unilaterally remove their forces from the ports of al-Hudaydah, Salif, and Ras Isa between May 11 and May 14. Many observers are sceptical of the promise, given the Houthis’ previous failures to follow through on this aspect of the Stockholm Agreements.

The UN is assessing possible damage to grain stored in the Red Sea Mills facility in Hudaydah following gunfire on Thursday. The National reports that the Houthis attacked the mills causing damage to one of the silos and the wheat stored in it.

Saturday, May 11

A Yemeni government minister has said that the Houthis’ handover of the three main ports in Hudaydah is a “show” meant to “disinform the international community.” Last year the Houthis staged a similar withdrawal of the port of Hudaydah, before it was discovered that the Coast Guard forces the Houthis had handed the port to were, in fact, also Houthi fighters. Journalist Baseem al-Jenani notes that this marks the third time in six months that the Houthis have announced their withdrawal from Hudaydah in accordance with the Stockholm Agreement

The Security Council has approved 75 observers to join the monitoring mission in Hudaydah as part of the Stockholm agreement. However, there are currently only 15 observers in Hudaydah while the others are waiting on visas. The observers were intended to monitor the implementation of the deal and assess conditions on the ground, tasks the mission cannot carry out without adequate staffing.

Sunday, May 12

Belgium’s foreign minister, who also serves as defense minister, said that he believes the country should suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, after investigators proved that Belgian arms are being used in the war in Yemen. The decision to halt exports falls to one of Belgium’s regional governments, not the central government.

Monday, May 13

UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths is facilitating a meeting in Jordan between Houthi and government representatives to discuss the disposition of revenue from Hudaydah’s ports.

Two Saudi oil tankers were among four vessels subject to “sabotage attacks” off the coast of the UAE.

Tuesday, May 14

Houthi forces carried out drone attacks on Saudi oil installations near the Red Sea coast. Saudi sources claim that damage was minimal, while a Houthi official stated that agents inside Saudi Arabia provided intelligence for the attacks.

Local security forces in Aden and Lahij reportedly released “hundreds” of African migrants who had been detained without appropriate provisions in a sports stadium and a military camp. Locals say that the legitimate government failed to provide assistance to the local authorities managing the detention centers, while negotiating with the International Organization for Migration concerning the migrants’ repatriation. Despite its ongoing humanitarian disaster, Yemen receives tens of thousands of migrants from across the Red Sea every year.

Security forces opened fire on a car carrying African migrants at a checkpoint in Abyan, killing an Ethiopian woman and wounding three men.

Wednesday, May 15

The UN mission in al-Hudaydah confirmed that Houthi forces have handed over control of the three ports of Hudaydah to the Yemeni Coast Guard. Government officials and other critics, however, say that the Coast Guard units involved are just more Houthi fighters in different uniforms. The UN and international community have given no indication that they share that concern, despite the fact that the Houthis have staged bogus handovers in the past.

Thursday, May 16

The Houthis and the government have failed to agree on how to manage revenues from the port of Hudaydah following talks convened by the UN Special Envoy in Amman.

The Saudi-led coalition carried out several airstrikes in San’a in retaliation for Houthi attacks on Saudi oil installations. The airstrikes allegedly targeted military sites, but Houthi authorities claimed that six civilians were killed and 60 were injured. Early reports from independent NGOs seemed to support those figures.

Yemen’s information minister claims that the Houthis have recruited and indoctrinated 50,000 child soldiers. Human rights organizations have reported on underage recruitment by the Saudi-led coalition and government-aligned forces as well.

Monday, May 20

Following a rocket attack on the Green Zone in Baghdad, President Trump threatened retaliation against Iran if the Islamic Republic “did anything” to threaten US interests. There is no evidence that Iran was connected to the rocket attack, and Mr. Trump admitted that the US has “no indication” of Iranian action, despite his administration’s repeated claims of a vague Iranian threat. The US administration’s continuing escalation of tensions with Iran threatens to spark a wider conflict in the region, with Yemen a likely front in any US-Iran conflict.

Italian dock workers in Genoa refused to load a consignment of electricity generators onto a Saudi freighter, citing concerns that the equipment could contribute to the Saudi war effort in Yemen. The freighter previously loaded a shipment of arms in Belgium, and was intended to pick up another weapons shipment in France. French workers in Le Havre refused to load the arms and turned the ship away, however. Today’s action by Italian union workers echoes the French protest; union leaders in Genoa issued a statement saying, “we will not be complicit in what is happening in Yemen.”

Friday, May 24

President Trump introduced 22 new arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan, despite a standing congressional prohibition on new sales to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Trump used a loophole in US arms export laws, claiming that Iran’s activities in the region constitute an “emergency.” No actual emergency has been demonstrated, however, and most of the arms involved take a long time to manufacture and prepare for export, making these sales an implausible response to whatever threat the White House imagines currently exists.

Thursday, May 30

For the second time this month, French dock workers refused to load arms shipments bound for Saudi Arabia. Following mobilization by human rights organizations and labor activists, the Saudi freighter Bahri Tabuk left a southern French port empty. Two weeks ago dockers in northern France blocked the transfer of a separate arms shipment.

The Saudi regime brought together officials from several Arab states, including rival Qatar, to discuss the threat posed by Iran and its allies. The summit follows apparent attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, which US officials have blamed on Iran without presenting evidence, as well as missile and drone attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure by the Houthis.

Sunday, June 2

Houthi forces claim to have attempted a drone attack on a coalition military parade in Aden. Other sources report that coalition air defenses downed a drone near the southern city the same day.

Tuesday, June 4

The World Food Programme threatened to suspend deliveries of food aid in Houthi-controlled territory, due to the Houthi leadership’s interference with aid distribution. Both the Houthis and their adversaries have held food deliveries hostage or otherwise prevented aid from reaching those in need throughout the war. The WFP feeds 10 million Yemenis every month, some of whom would starve without aid.

Reuters reports that France’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia increased 50% in 2018 over previous years. France has sold the Saudi military patrol boats, among other assets. Saudi naval forces have enforced an illegal blockade on Yemen’s ports, and have frequently attacked civilians fishing off the coast.

Wednesday, June 5

A bipartisan group of US senators introduced resolutions of disapproval for all 22 proposed arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE put forward recently by the White House. President Trump used a legally questionable “emergency” procedure to approve the sales, despite the fact that no clear emergency exists, and most of the weapons in question could not feasibly be delivered for several months, if not years. The unorthodox maneuver stoked the ire of Republican senators who otherwise would be unlikely to oppose such sales.

Thursday, June 6

The Yemen Data Project reports that May saw more civilian casualties due to coalition airstrikes than any single month since October 2018. Airstrike casualties increased 14% over April.

Friday, June 7

Houthi officials claim that their air defense forces shot down an American-made Reaper drone over the west coast last night.