December 1–7: Assassinations, intra-government squabbles, new peace talks

The past week in Yemen has seen an attempted Cabinet reshuffle, the seizure by al-Qaeda of two towns in Abyan Governorate and the 4th Military Region headquarters in Aden, and the assassination of Aden’s governor, an act which was quickly claimed by a local Islamic State affiliate. Meanwhile, airstrikes and ground combat have continued in central Yemen and beyond the borders with Saudi Arabia. On Monday, December 7, the UN special envoy for Yemen announced that a new round of peace talks will be held next week, beginning on December 15. A ceasefire is expected to be announced on the eve of the talks, although such announcements in the recent past have come to nothing. On December 1, President Abdu Rabbuh Mansur Hadi issued decrees appointing five ministers to the cabinet of PM/VP Khaled Bahah. The reshuffle exacerbated the lingering Hadi-Bahah dispute; PM/VP Bahah reportedly refused to recognize the new appointments, as the president has no legal authority to replace cabinet ministers. On December 2, AQAP militants captured the towns of Zinjibar and Jaʻar in Abyan, following a predawn swift attack that killed the brother of the commander of the local Popular Committees, which were formed to fight the militants.

Also on Tuesday, unidentified gunmen abducted a Tunisian staffer working for the  ICRC’s office in Sanʻa while on the way to work in the early morning. Her whereabouts remain unknown to date. Some 30 aid workers reportedly left Yemen within 48 afterwards, including 10 ICRC staffers.

While airstrikes continued over the last week to pound positions on several fronts across Yemen, Saudi-led warplanes have targeted residential areas in the northern provinces of Saʻdah and Hajjah, as well as the coastal western province of al-Hudaydah, where another fish market has been hit by airstrikes.

The battles in the central provinces of Marib and Taʻiz continue to intensify.

In Taʻiz the western and eastern fronts have seen clashes escalating amid heavy airstrikes. Near the Red Sea port town of Mokha, pro-Houthi forces have claimed to hit a sixth warship from the coalition navy. In Marib, this week’s fighting has mostly taken place in the western district of Kuwfal.

On Sunday, Aden’s governor, Gen. Jaʻfar Muhammad Saʻad, was killed along with several members of his entourage, as a vehicle packed with explosives collided with his car in the al-Tawahi district of Aden. Local self-proclaimed IS affiliates took responsibility for the attack. Saʻad was tapped by President Hadi in October to take over the governorate. He had lived in exile prior to that, having fought against the Saleh regime in Yemen’s 1994 civil war.