September 18 - October 5: Indiscriminate attacks continue, coalition advances in east and south

With peace talks still stalled, Yemen saw some of the heaviest indiscriminate airstrikes of the war over the past two weeks, in addition to ground fighting in the central parts of Yemen and near the Bab al-Mandab. Since mid-September, more than 300 people have reportedly been killed by Saudi-led airstrikes in a number of cities and towns. Indiscriminate shelling by pro-Houthi/Saleh forces, particularly in the city of Taʻiz, has also killed dozens of civilians in recent weeks. A UNOCHA-funded report found that “more civilian deaths and injuries from explosive weapons were recorded in Yemen during the first seven months of 2105 than in any other country in the world.” According to that report, at least 86% of those killed by bombs and other explosives in Yemen’s war have been civilians.

In the capital, Sanʻa, at least 90 people were killed in less than a week (September 18-23), including an entire family of 10 in the UNESCO-listed Old City of Sanʻa and another whole family of 11 members in a neighborhood to the north of the capital.

Meanwhile, on September 20, over 70 people were killed while visiting a local market in Munabbeh village of Saʻdah Governorate—just three days prior the ʻEid al-Adha Islamic holiday.

On September 27, an Apache helicopter killed at least 30 people in the northwestern village Bani Zayla’ of Hajjah Governorate, near the border with Saudi Arabia. On the next day, two airstrikes hit a wedding party in the southwestern village of Wahijah near the Red Sea coastal town Mokha, in Taʻiz Governorate. As many as 135 people, mostly women and children, were reportedly killed.

The wedding aerial attack, the deadliest single incident since the start of the Saudi-led air campaign, has drawn strong condemnations and resentful calls worldwide. On that day, UN chief Ban Ki-moon unusually criticized this Saudi campaign in a public statement, and called for an end to the bombings. The Netherlands’ UN mission also drafted a Human Rights Council resolution that called for an impartial, UN-led investigation into human rights and international law violations in ‪‎Yemen.

But while the Saudis were facing international pressure, the Netherlands eventually withdrew the draft. Instead, the Netherlands and other western states backed a resolution penned by Saudi Arabia and the Hadi regime, which made no mention of coalition airstrikes, and left the job of investigating human rights and law violations in the hands of the Hadi regime.

On September 22, Hadi returned to Aden after six months in exile in Riyadh. On September 26, he addressed the United Nations at the 67th UN General Assembly in New York City. From there, Hadi returned to Riyadh on Saturday October 3, not Aden as it was expected.

On Thursday, October 1, the Saudi-led coalition forces reportedly took control of the strategic strait of Bab al-Mandab on the Red Sea. Prime Minister and Vice President Khaled Bahah, who reportedly paid a brief visit to a camp near Bab al-Mandab, said the current operations "will push to retake Mokha and al-Hudaydah," both on the Red Sea, and then the "whole coastline up to the border with Saudi Arabia." The coalition also announced that it will start an operation next Thursday morning to liberate Taʻiz.

The seizure of Bab al-Mandab strait came in as Hadi-allied forces and resistance fighters from the southern port city of Aden were mobilizing in the al-Subbayha area of southern Governorate Lahj, some 70 km on the road to the central city of Taʻiz.

Meanwhile, coalition forces along with local tribal fighters have gained more positions in Marib and are closing in on the northwestern district of Sirwah, which is seen as the key area leading to the capital. While the pro-Houthi forces seem to have lost positions in the interior fronts, they have gained ground in the neighboring Saudi cities across the borderline. They claim to have captured military bases and destroyed several army installations, in addition to holding tens of Saudi soldiers as prisoners.