June 15-21: Clashes between pro-STC/UAE forces and government troops in Shabwah; WFP suspends aid due to Houthi interference

Sunday, June 16

A UAE-funded project to improve water production capacity in Yemen was launched on Sunday in Yemen’s port city of al-Mokha. The new project by the Emirati Red Crescent in Yemen consists of two artesian wells connected to a generator and two storage tanks, and will be connected to the main water distribution network. The project is projected to allow water to be provided on a 24-hour basis.

Monday, June 17

World Food Program (WFP) chief David Beasley warned on Monday that a phased-suspension of food assistance in Yemen was likely to begin later this week over a diversion of aid and lack of independence in Houthi-controlled areas. The Houthis have been accused of diverting food and water aid supplies. Beasley called on the Houthis to “simply let us do our job” and immediately implement registration and monitoring agreements.

Commander of the Yemeni 4th Brigade, Mehran Al-Qubati, accused the United Arab Emirates of planning an “imminent coup” in Aden against President Hadi.

Tuesday, June 18

Southern Yemeni news source Aden al-Ghad states that, according to a local security source, mounting tensions between pro-government and pro-STC military groups in Ataq, Shabwah province are in danger of erupting into violence.  

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blocked the inclusion of Saudi Arabia on a U.S. list of countries that recruit child soldiers, dismissing experts’ conclusions that the Saudi-led coalition has been using underage fighters in Yemen’s civil war. Since the end of 2016, the Saudi-led coalition has deployed as many as 14,000 Sudanese at any given time, including children as young as 14, to fight in Yemen, offering payments of up to $10,000 per recruit. Sarah Margon, director of Human Right Watch’s Washington office, said: “This decision shows clearly that the Trump administration is using political manipulation and dismissing evidence – at the expense of kids – in order to protect Saudi Arabia.”

Wednesday, June 19

Al-Mahrah Post tweeted that clashes broke out in Shabwah between UAE-backed forces and local security forces in the governate’s capital city of Ataq. Yemeni journalist Mareb al-Ward provided further details, reporting that the Emirate-backed militias had attempted to gain control of the Ataq Airport. The government-backed security forces, he states, attempted and failed to defeat the UAE-backed forces, who have established a number of illegal checkpoints around the city in a bid to undermine the authority of the Yemeni government there.

Al-Mahrah Post reports that the Yemeni government has launched an offensive in an attempt to gain control of al-Baydha province.

Al-Masdar Online reports anti-Islah protests in Soqotra organized by the Southern Transitional Council.

Houthi propaganda outlet al-Masirah reports protests today against the World Food Program (WFP) in front of the UN offices in the city of San’a. According to the article, protesters--likely paid or coerced by Houthi forces--accused the WFP of political partisanship, corruption, and intelligence gathering. The article also insinuates that the WFP is responsible for the spread of cholera in Yemen through distribution of contaminated food products.

A detailed report from al-Masdar Online outlines the forces that are governing Yemen’s interim capital of Aden and the areas they control. These groups include presidential protection forces loyal to President Hadi as well as various UAE-backed militias. The article points out that the Saudi-led coalition has played a role in intensifying divisions between various factions in Aden. The authors also report that the UAE focuses largely on controlling the port of Aden and the revenues that it generates; local military leaders are rewarded for loyalty to the UAE with both revenues from goods imported through the port, and with bribes demanded of vehicles attempting to leave the port with their goods. The UAE relies heavily on local militias to maintain its influence in the city; the report states that these forces often carry out assassinations and arrests of the UAE’s political/religious opponents in the city. However, these groups also often commit crimes to avenge personal vendettas which are overlooked by the Gulf state. The article goes on to outline the political allegiances and areas of control of various military leaders around the city of Aden, highlighting the UAE’s support for the separatist Southern Transitional Council.

The parliament of the Arab League on Wednesday called upon the UN and the Security Council to “take a firm and immediate position by classifying the putschist Houthi militia as a terrorist organization.”

In addition, a report released by the the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (Acled) project Wednesday found that the Yemeni conflict's death toll is fast approaching the 100,000 mark. In 2015, 7,700 events caused 17,100 deaths, while the following year 8,700 events caused 15,100 deaths. In 2017, 7,900 events caused 16,800 deaths, bringing the total number of events to 39,700 and cumulative fatalities to 91,600. Taiz was identified as the most violent governorate in Yemen.

Thursday, June 20

Al-Mahrah Post reports that a committee of mediators led by local sheikhs was able to reach an agreement ending the military tensions reported earlier this week between pro-government forces and UAE-backed militias in the city of Ataq, Shabwah Governorate.

The US Senate voted to block the sale of billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The vote is representative of the larger mission led by several members of Congress who seek an end to American military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

This is the second time in just a few months that members of President Trump’s party have publicly opposed his foreign policy surrounding the Saudi-led Coalition and Yemen, with both the House and Senate approving bipartisan legislation this spring to cut off military assistance for the intervention in Yemen using the 1973 War Powers Act, only to see it vetoed.

The vote came on the same day that Britain announced it would temporarily suspend approval of new licenses to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, after the Court of Appeal issued an unexpected ruling that ministers act unlawfully when permitting these sales of weapons, given the certainty that they are being used in Yemen in violation of international humanitarian law.

Friday, June 21

Al-Masdar Online reports renewed fighting between pro-government forces and Houthi militias east of the city of Ta’iz, but was unable to confirm the numbers of resulting casualties.