October 6–19: Civilians suffer as conflict drags on; new peace talks announced

Yemen’s civil conflict is now in its seventh month, and UN-backed peace talks remain stagnant. The conflict that started in late March has killed more than 4,500 Yemenis so far, including at least 502 children, according to UNICEF. An estimated 10% of the country’s population has been internally displaced. While 80% of Yemenis needs humanitarian assistance, more than half a million children face life-threatening malnutrition as a risk of famine grows. In an open letter, Oxfam and other NGOs urged UN Security Council members to act to end the months-long civil war and alleviate Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. On Tuesday, October 6, suicide attacks in the southern port city of Aden targeted the exiled government, which forced Vice President/ Prime Minister Khaled Bahah along with a handful of ministers to withdraw from the city. Three IS-claimed suicide attacks in Aden—the provisional capital—hit the exiled government’s temporary building, the residence of Emirati troops, and the Coalition’s Joint Command Center. At least 15 coalition troops and Southern Resistance fighters were reportedly killed in the attacks, which reveal that Aden’s security situation is much more fragile than it appears to be.

Some 400 Sudanese troops—out of 6,000 that the Sudanese government has reportedly pledged—were deployed to this “liberated” port city On Monday, October 19, two days after 300 troops had already arrived. But it has not yet been confirmed whether this second batch of Sudanese troops will be tasked with maintaining security in Aden, or be sent into combat elsewhere.

On Wednesday, October 7, more than 40 people were killed when an airstrike hit the house of three brother-grooms in Sanaban village, east of Dhamar city in Yemen’s central highlands. This was the second wedding party to be bombed in 10 days, as Saudi-led airstrikes continued to hit cities and towns across the country.

With aerial cover and support, fighting near the Red Sea coast continued to drag on with the aim of advancing on and “liberating” Taʻiz city, where pro-Houthi/Saleh forces have been imposing a siege for weeks now, leaving the local residents with no water, fuels, or other basic necessities. Although it has been more than two weeks since the Saudi-led coalition launched their operation liberate Taʻiz, no clear action has been taken, other than airstrikes, which have taken a heavy civilian toll along with artillery shells from pro-Houthi/Saleh forces. The coalition-allied fighters, which were deployed outside Lahj province on the road to Taʻiz late in September, have not been able to advance further since then. A coalition spokesperson said that “the geographical nature of the battlefield” is one reason behind that. Over this weekend, Saudi-led warplanes mistakenly struck some of those allied fighters, killing at least 30 and wounding 40 others.

In Marib Governorate, the Saudi-led coalition forces along with local tribal fighters are trying to maintain full control over the governorate, but landmines are slowing their progress. However, the coalition forces and their tribal allies are aiming to open another front in the neighboring governorate of al-Jawf. The Qatari government has reportedly offered to send troops to join the al-Jawf battle ground.

Across the borderline, pro-Houthi troops continue to pound the Saudi Army bases and installations in Najran, Jaizan and Aseer. Several Saudi soldiers have been killed and many others captured. Another Scud missile was also fired from the capital, Sanʻa, toward Khamis Mushayt airbase last week. While the Houthi army spokesman said that the missile hit its target, the Saudi-affiliated media contradicted this.

The launching of the ballistic missile came hours after the top Houthi leader, ‘Abd al-Malik Badr al-Din al-Houthi delivered a televised speech on Wednesday, October 14. His speech came right after a speech made by former president ʻAli ʻAbdullah Saleh. Both blamed Saudi Arabia for stalling the UN-backed talks aimed at ending the months-long conflict in Yemen. On Sunday, the UN envoy to Yemen announced that a new round of peace talks will be held soon. All parties to the conflict have agreed to participate in the talks that will be held in Geneva late this month.