August 18–24: Conflict escalates in al-Hudaydah, Ta‘iz, and Marib

The last week has seen some of the most brutal days of war in the poorest of the Arab states. Despite the UN and aid agencies warnings of eminent famine, Yemen’s conflict and associated humanitarian disaster are no closer to resolution. The Saudi-led airstrikes have been intensified, killing dozens of civilians; fighting has returned to areas of the country the coalition had claimed to have “liberated”; more coalition forces were deployed; al-Qaeda carried out brazen attacks in southern Yemen, while the Islamic State carried its first attack in the east; cross-border attacks by pro-Houthi/Saleh units have escalated as well. The UN-backed political talks in Oman seemed to have come to a standstill on Friday. But two days later, the UN Envoy resumed the talks after he met the exiled president in Riyadh, who tendered on Thursday a proposal to the UNSC chief for a conditional 15-day ceasefire. On the other hand, the head of the Houthi “Revolutionary Committee” sent a letter on Saturday, urging the UNSC to stop the Saudi-led war against Yemen, where the humanitarian situation has become more catastrophic.

UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien said Wednesday that the scale of human suffering in Yemen was “almost incomprehensible,” with a “shocking” four out of five Yemenis requiring humanitarian assistance and nearly 1.5 million people internally displaced. For its part, WFP estimates that the number of food insecure people in Yemen is now close to 13 million, including 6 million who are severely food insecure and in urgent need of external assistance; that is 20% of the country’s population.

Meanwhile, the Saudi airstrikes have escalated. In three consecutive days, coalition warplanes killed at least 80 civilians. On Tuesday, 21 educators were killed as they were in a meeting discussing the examinations process for schools. On Wednesday, at least 13 people were killed when four airstrikes hit a local market in al-Dhahi town to the north of al-Hudaydah. On the same day, the Hudaydah seaport was knocked out by at least eight airstrikes. On Thursday, 65 civilians were killed in Taʻiz.

Clashes raged on inTaʻiz and Abyan, as the coalition deployed ground troops. On Sunday, the coalition deployed thousands of troops with heavy armaments in the eastern province of Marib.

Across Yemen’s northern border, the pro-Houthi/Saleh units have intensively been shelling Saudi military bases in both cities of Najran and Jaizan. On Thursday, a ballistic short-range missile was fired against a naval base in Jaizan. The units have also pushed inland and killed a brigade commander in Jaizan.

Taking the advantage of months-long chaos, al-Qaeda in the south has reportedly seized areas in the port city of Aden [editor’s note: reports on this situation have been the subject of controversy. Here’s another take, as reported in the New York Times]. The Islamic State’s self-proclaimed group in Yemen claimed its responsibility for attacking a military post in the eastern province of Hadramout.