May 21-30: Coalition continues toward Hudaydah as UN officials express concern


Oxfam’s Scott Paul was featured on an episode of UN Dispatch podcast, explaining the impact of the Saudi-led coalition’s restrictions on shipping on people in southern Yemen.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released a statement on the situation in Yemen expressing concern about escalating hostilities in the Tihamah coastal region.

March 12-19: Secret Houthi-KSA talks revealed, Hadi redraws Shabwa borders


President Hadi has reportedly offered the Chinese government the opportunity to manage the port of Aden.

WHO, UNICEF, and Yemeni organizations have immunized 2.7 million children across the country. Since it was first reported in October 2017, the disease has spread quickly, killing more than 70 people so far.

Chatham House encourages the incorporation of subnational and local groups in an expanded mediation process

In Yemen: National Chaos, Local Order, Chatham House's Peter Salisbury identifies Yemen as a “chaos state” characterized as “a nominal entity that exists largely as lines on a map and as a concept in newspaper reports and policymaker briefings" (p. 45). The traditional solution to restoring order in a “chaos state” is creating a centralized government that dictates legitimacy from the top down. According to Salisbury’s analysis, this approach is unlikely to work in Yemen. Yemen is not purely a contest for power between the Houthis and the government of President Hadi, or purely a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, but rather “a region of mini-states at varying degrees of war with one another, and beset by their own complex internal politics and conflicts.”  

November 13-20; US House Says US Military Assistance to the Coalition is Unauthorized; Saudi Blockade Continues


Saudi Arabia announced that the Saudi-led coalition would open the ports controlled by the Hadi government, including Aden, Mokha, and Mukalla. However, the coalition wouldn’t open ports such as al-Hudaydah in Houthi-controlled territory until the UN sends experts to ensure that weapons aren’t being smuggled through them. Leaders of the Houthi organization vowed to retaliate against the Saudi-led coalition over the blockade.

July 4-10: AQAP storms Aden base, Hadi makes brief visit to Marib

Monday, July 4Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile fired across the border from Yemen early Monday, the Saudi-led coalition reported. The missile, which was launched by Houthi forces towards the southern Saudi city of Abha, was intercepted with no injuries after the missile launcher was destroyed by the kingdom’s air defenses.

Gulf News reports that it was at least the fourth ballistic missile launched across the border since the ceasefire and UN-brokered peace talks began in Kuwait in April between the Houthis and Hadi’s government. The Saudi-led coalition has similarly violated the ceasefire with continued airstrikes.

Yemen’s Central Bank refused to pay government employees on Sunday due to its severe shortage of funds. The bank is reportedly facing a daily deficit of 94 billion rials, "resulting from a lack of tax revenue and a 200% reduction in the country's revenues."

A governmental report submitted by Yemeni Finance Minister Munser al-Quaiti to ambassadors of donor countries within the context of the Kuwait peace talks two weeks ago said the Houthi militias seized $1.6 billion of foreign exchange reserves during the past 16 months under the pretext of “war efforts.”

Tuesday, July 5 Rockets launched by Houthi forces killed seven children and wounded twenty-five other civilians in Marib. One rocket reportedly struck a courtyard where the children were playing while two other rockets hit a home and a storefront. The number of casualties was provided by the director of Marib’s main hospital, which received the victims.

Wednesday, July 6 An attack by al-Qaeda at Aden’s Solaban military base in Khormaksar killed at least fourteen soldiers and wounded dozens more. Six attackers were also killed.

The militants detonated a suicide car bomb at the gate, allowing more fighters onto the base. They exchanged gunfire with troops for hours, only withdrawing after Apache helicopters carried out a series of strikes on the base.

AQAP called the attack revenge for government assaults elsewhere in southern Yemen.

The Washington Post reports on an increase in the marriage of underage girls in Yemen as a result of the conflict. Organizations that have worked in Yemen to end this practice say that before the war, instances of underage marriage were decreasing. As more families are now being displaced and facing extreme poverty, many of them marry off one of their daughters, sometimes as young as eight, in order to support the rest of the family.

Friday, July 8 US Central Command reports that four al-Qaeda operatives have been killed in two strikes in Shabwa province on July 1 and July 4. The report states that “The U.S. will not relent in its mission to degrade, disrupt and destroy al-Qaida and its remnants,” claiming that, “Strikes conducted by the U.S. in Yemen continue to diminish AQAP’s presence in the region.”

The release comes a week after the Obama administration reported the number of civilians killed in American strikes in non-combat zones in the past seven years. The tally was reported at 116, but independent organizations estimate that the civilian death toll is much higher.

Yemen’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdul Malik al-Mekhlafi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Saudi-led coalition’s Operation Decisive Storm was “launched for the sake of Yemen and the Arab and Islamic World,” and denied any intention to back off “until legitimacy is achieved in Yemen.”

He added that UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed “betrayed the Yemeni government’s trust when he submitted the roadmap project without discussing it with the government delegation.”

Al-Mekhlafi said that Ould Sheikh Ahmed will meet with President Hadi and government members following Eid al-Fitr to discuss the roadmap.

Saturday, July 9 Since the war began in March 2015, most of Yemen’s 1,200 foreign doctors have been forced to flee. The lack of practitioners has left critically-injured patients, especially those in need of specialized medical attention, with nowhere to turn.

Doctors working in Yemen, even those affiliated with Doctors Without Borders and other international organizations, face the ongoing danger of airstrikes. Many hospitals have been bombed, and doctors have been killed while attempting to provide medical assistance to those wounded in airstrikes.

In another part to The Washington Post’s recent series on Yemen’s conflict, Sudarsan Raghavan reports on the use of American-made cluster bombs by the Saudi coalition. The use of these bombs not only has tragic consequences for innocent civilians, including children, but has further damaged the reputation of the United States in the eyes of many Yemenis, who struggle to understand why a country with “principles of democracy and human rights” is participating in the indiscriminate bombing of their country.

Sunday, July 10 President Hadi arrived in Marib for his first visit since Houthi forces were expelled from the area a year ago. Hadi, along with Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and other officials, is said to be monitoring the military and security situation there. In today's speech, Hadi said that he will not allow the United Nations to implement decisions that would form a coalition government, adding that he will not return to Kuwait if the UN issued such a decision. Hadi also said he would not allow the Houthis “to establish a Persian nation in Yemen,” referring to the rebels' limited ties with Iran.

These threatening comments by Hadi could undermine the peace talks, which by all accounts have been making slow but steady progress to end Yemen’s 15-month-long war.

During Hadi’s visit, a suspected US drone strike wounded four alleged members of al-Qaeda in Marib province. Neither Hadi’s government nor the US have commented on the strike.

The US has released from Guantanamo Bay Fayiz Ahmad Yahia Suleiman, a Yemeni held at the prison for 14 and a half years without charge. Although Mr. Suleiman was cleared for transfer six years ago after being falsely accused of connections with al-Qaeda, he is only now being resettled in Italy.

“Like many low-level Yemenis on the list, [Suleiman] remained stranded because the administration deemed his home country too chaotic to accept repatriated detainees.”

June 20-26: Ceasefire violations kill dozens, UN urges immediate resolution

Tuesday, June 21Following two months of negotiations in Kuwait, UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed urged the country’s warring parties to finalize a peace deal as soon as possible. The envoy emphasized that now is the time for both the Houthis and Hadi’s government to make concessions. He added that the recently introduced roadmap to resolve the conflict, which outlines the formation and responsibilities of a national unity government, has been received positively by both sides.

The Saudi-led coalition said that it intercepted a ballistic missile fired in Marib, while locals say a Saudi airstrike in Lahj caused eight civilian casualties. The exchange is one of many instances of violations of the ceasefire by all sides of the conflict.

Decades after the disappearance of thousands of Yemeni Jewish children in Israel between 1948 and 1954, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is calling to “reveal the truth about the Yemenite children,” saying that “the time has come to know what happened and to do justice here.”

Between 1,500 and 5,000 Sephardic children, mainly Yemenite toddlers, were reported missing during the period following Israel’s founding. Many parents were told that their children had died, sparking claims they were kidnapped and given to Ashkenazi couples.

Wednesday, June 22 A senior UN official said that already limited food distribution in Yemen will be forced to scale back by August because of severe funding shortages.

“About 14 million people, or roughly half the country's population, suffer from food insecurity at ‘crisis’ or ‘emergency’ levels,” said George Khoury, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen. Emergency level is just one step before famine on the UN's food insecurity scale. About $200 million is reportedly needed to keep food distribution at current levels in the coming months.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss improving civilian protection in Yemen, and other regional issues. The meeting, requested by the Saudis, comes following the release of a UN report that originally listed the Saudi-led coalition as the group responsible for the most child deaths in Yemen in the past year. The coalition was removed from the list after Saudi Arabia threatened to withdraw funding from UN programs. Ban claims to stand by the original report.

Yemeni Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Mohammed al-Maitami said that an evaluation of war damages in six Yemeni governorates has been completed, with initial estimates reaching $12 billion.

The survey focused on six major sectors including health, education, electricity, and water. Maitami added that the study was carried out by the Yemeni government in cooperation with experts from the European Union and the United Nations Development Program.

Thursday, June 23 Residents of Ja’ar and Zinjibar reported that al-Qaeda fighters have returned to the southern cities a month after their negotiated withdrawal. Militants are now said to be seen during the day driving pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns and retreating to hideouts at night.

The Yemeni government said that Houthi forces must withdraw from all territories seized since 2014 and hand back control of state institutions ahead of any political settlement.

Meanwhile, the Houthi delegation said it would not agree to any deal on military and security issues until there was an agreement on a consensus president and a national unity government to oversee the transition. This disagreement on the sequence of a political settlement has long been one of the major sticking points in the negotiations.

Friday, June 24 Clashes across Yemen, including in Jawf province and Ta’iz, killed 22 Houthis and 11 pro-government forces, according to military officials. Eight of the pro-government casualties were killed by friendly fire from a Saudi-led airstrike that missed its target.

Saturday, June 25 Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh spoke to constituents and reporters about the ongoing war, the peace talks in Kuwait, and the role of foreign powers in Yemen’s conflict. Following reports that Riyadh has been proposed as the location for the signing of a peace deal between Yemen’s government-in-exile and the Houthis, Saleh claimed that the GPC will never travel to Saudi Arabia, even if it means that the war will continue for decades. This is despite the fact that many GPC members have resided in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the war.

Sunday, June 26 Saudi-led airstrikes killed at least seven people in Yemen on Sunday, according to residents. Two women died in an airstrike on a home located between the provinces of Ta’iz and Lahj, and five were killed in Khawlan, southeast of San’a. It is unclear if the casualties from the Khawlan strike were civilians.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said "serious violations" have been committed in Yemen’s current ceasefire, and called on warring parties to reach a peace deal before the conflict claims more casualties.

"Whilst the cessation of hostilities is mostly holding, there have been serious violations, causing further casualties and suffering among the civilian population, including children." 

Ban added that time is not on Yemen’s side, saying that, "There is an alarming scarcity of basic food items. The economy is in precarious condition.”

November 25–30: Marib and Taʻiz still contested; UN demands peace talks

Yemen’s armed conflict has entered its ninth month with no end in sight: airstrikes and ground fighting across Yemen have thus far claimed the lives of more than 5700 people and pushed the country to the brink of famine, according to activist groups and aid agencies. A new report by Human Rights Watch details the failure of the Saudi-led coalition and its western backers to investigate unlawful airstrikes in Yemen, although “the evidence is everywhere.”  The UN special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, is still pushing for new peace talks in Geneva. On November 25, Prime Minister/Vice President Khaled Bahah met with Ahmed in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. During the meeting, Bahah said that the delegates of his government aim to come back from the new Geneva talks with a solution that guarantees the restoration of peace and security in Yemen.

On Monday, President Abdu Rabbuh Mansor Hadi received a draft including notes on the agendas that have been proposed by the UN envoy for the proposed session of talks. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with PM Bahah on the sidelines of this week’s climate talks in Paris; during the meeting, Ban called on Yemen’s warring parties to return to negotiations immediately and without preconditions. Thus far the Hadi-Bahah government has insisted that the Houthis and their allies must implement UN Security Council resolution 2216 before talks can begin.

Over the weekend, airstrikes in the capital, Sanʻa, targeted once again mountainous positions that have repeatedly been struck over the past months. The warplanes also knocked out the road connecting Dhamar, Ibb, and Taʻiz provinces with Sanʻa.

It’s been two weeks now since coalition and resistance forces launched a major operation to “liberate” Taʻiz Governorate. Justifications for the delay in liberating Taʻiz and Marib have started to appear in the media; while the field commander in charge says the operation is going according to plan, the local tribal resistance commander stated that 10 brigades of Houthi/Saleh forces are fighting to hold their positions in Taʻiz.

Coalition units intensified their efforts to take control of the western part of Taʻiz, near the Red Sea town of Mocha. The western and eastern fronts are reportedly seeing the fiercest clashes since the operation was launched. Pro-Houthi forces are holding their positions in al-Shurayjah and al-Rahidah on the road to the southern province of Lahj despite heavy airstrikes.

Likewise, Marib’s western district of Sirwah has not yet been liberated, despite months of fighting. On Sunday, Marib’s deputy governor said that landmines planted by Houthi/Saleh forces are the main reason behind that.

November 10–17: Coalition launches Ta‘iz offensive, peace talks postponed

While the new session of UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva seems to have been postponed, the airstrikes and ground fighting continued over the past week, mostly in central and southern Yemen and beyond the border with Saudi Arabia. Early Tuesday, President Abdu Rabbuh Mansur Hadi returned to his provisional capital, Aden, one day after Yemeni resistance and Saudi-led coalition forces launched a major operation to "liberate" the central city of Taʻiz. Hadi chaired a meeting focused on the security issues in Aden, where a number of areas are reportedly under the control of jihadi militants. On Sunday, Vice President and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah announced from Suqutra Island the return of his cabinet members to the southern port city of Aden.

Amid airstrikes by Saudi Arabia and its allies,  clashes have been taking place in the central governorates of Taʻiz and Marib as well as the southern governorates of Lahj and Shabwah.

In Taʻiz Governorate, fighting has been chiefly raging on the western fronts, near the Red Sea port town of Mokha, in addition to clashes in downtown Taʻiz city, where jihadi militants are believed to be fighting alongside other local resistance factions. Near Mokha town, battles have intensified as the resistance fighters along with Saudi-led coalition forces have gained ground in the al-Waziʻiyah area. However, tens of anti-Houthi forces were reportedly killed in roadside ambush.

In Marib, tribal fighters and coalition forces have attempted once again to advance in the western Sirwah district, with air support from fighter jets and Apache helicopters. Meanwhile, Yemeni Army (pro-Hadi) Chief of Staff, Major General Mohammad ʻAli al-Maqdashi, visited the district to oversee the battles there.

In Lahj, clashes have taken place near al-Anad military base, one of the most important military installations in the south. Resistance fighters along with coalition forces have reportedly gained a number of positions there.

In Shabwah, fierce fighting has been taking place in Bayhan district, which is controlled by pro-Houthi/Saleh forces. In the clashes, Islah Party members have reportedly been killed.

November 3–9: Fighting intensifies on multiple fronts as Geneva talks approach

With new peace talks fast approaching, the ground fighting continues to escalate rapidly on several fronts across Yemen and across the border with Saudi Arabia, while the Saudi-led coalition’s aircraft continue to provide local anti-Houthi fighters with aerial support and weapons. Ground fighting has been swiftly intensifying in or around six Yemeni cities since early last week, while the new round of UN-sponsored talks aiming to end the conflict in Yemen is just few days away. The new peace-talks session is expected to take place in Geneva on November 15. On Sunday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew to Riyadh to reinforce the push for a peaceful political settlement among the warring parties. Having finalized the initial negations ahead of the upcoming talks in Geneva, delegates from the Houthi Movement and the General People’s Congress party (GPC) returned from Muscat on Friday to brief their leadership in the Yemeni capital, Sanʻa. The exiled government in Riyadh has already assigned five representatives for the new Geneva talks. While the UN special envoy for Yemen appeared to be optimistic, several observers believe the talks are doomed to fail amid the escalated conflict on the ground.

In the central city of Taʻiz, clashes are taking place in downtown and intensifying in the eastern frontline, with both sides using heavy artillery and tanks. More than a dozen pro-Houthi/Saleh forces have been killed and wounded in an ambush; civilians have also reportedly been killed. While the pro-Houthi/Saleh forces surround the city from three sides, coalition airstrikes continue to target those forces. More reinforcement troops from the coalition, along with armored vehicles, have reached Taʻiz during the past week.

Near the Red Sea port of Mokha, pro-Houthi/Saleh forces claimed to hit a coalition warship, which they say is the fourth to be bombed.

In Ibb governorate, pro-Houthi/Saleh forces have taken control of Damt district near Dhaliʻ city, after fierce clashes with local resistance fighters left tens of dead on both sides. Although the coalition’s aircraft provided the resistance fighters with aerial support and weapons, the pro-Houthi/Saleh forces still control large parts of the district.

In Marib governorate, clashes erupted on new frontlines in the western districts amid airstrikes and artillery barrages. The local tribal fighters along with coalition forces are poised to capture al-Wakifah valley, some four kilometers outside the western district of Sirwah.

In the southern governorate of Lahj, near Aden city, fighting has escalated in what was seen as an attempt by pro-Houthi/Saleh forces to recapture Aden. On the other hand, 200 Sudanese and Gulf troops were reportedly seen leaving Aden, heading toward al-Anad airbase, where at least 400 coalition forces have been stationed.

Meanwhile, another Tropical Cyclone, Megh, battered Suqutra Island on Sunday, just days after Cyclone Chapala left at least three people dead and displaced hundreds from their homes on the island. One woman was reportedly killed while four other people were injured by the second storm.

October 20–November 2: New talks expected, fighting continues, cyclone takes a toll

The civil war entered its eighth month on October 26, as the airstrikes and ground combat continue to rage on, mostly in central Yemen. That day, Saudi-led airstrikes destroyed an MSF-supported hospital in the northern governorate of Saʻdah, leaving the entire governorate with only one health facility. “At least 200,000 people now have no access to lifesaving medical care,” said an MSF press release. A new round of UN-sponsored peace talks aiming to end the drawn-out conflict in Yemen is expected to take place in Geneva on November 15, after being postponed last month. Meanwhile, fighting on the Saudi side of the border continues to intensify in the areas of Najran, Jayzan and Asir. 

Last month, the UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, tried to talk the warring parties into holding a new round of talks based on a seven-point proposal put forth during previous talks in the Omani capital, Muscat. Both the Houthis and their ally former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have assented to the negotiated implementation of UNSC resolution 2216, which requires them to hand over their weapons and withdraw from occupied cities. Yemen’s Saudi-backed government-in-exile, however, has insisted since the peace talks began on the Houthis’ full implementation of 2216 as a precondition to talks. Now, after many quibbles over the time and place of this new session, the UN envoy expects the talks to be held in Geneva on November 15.

In the meantime, the frontlines in the central governorates of Taʻiz, Marib, al-Baydha, and Ibb have seen clashes intensifying as Saudi-led warplanes provide aerial support for local resistance fighters. Sporadic clashes are also taking place in the southern governorate of Lahj, just north of Aden.

In Taʻiz city, clashes between local resistance militias and pro-Houthi/Saleh forces escalated over the past two weeks. Coalition war planes have been targeting the positions of Houthi/Saleh forces and airdropping weapons to the resistance. Over the weekend, local resistance fighters were able to secure a route into Taʻiz through the Houthi blockade, and smuggle a number of armored vehicles into Taʻiz amid the weeks-long siege imposed by the pro-Houthi forces.

Also in Taʻiz, a group of salafi militants, calling themselves “Humat al-ʻAqidah” (Guardians of Faith), have recently emerged and are fighting alongside the local resistance fighters. While the expected “decisive operation” for liberating Yemen’s third-largest city hasn’t yet began, the city may soon witness even fiercer fighting.

In Marib city, fighting for control over the western district of Sirwah continues to intensify, although parts of this district have already been “liberated” by Maribi tribes and coalition forces. Early last week, clashes broke out all over again, when the coalition-trained Maribi forces along with local tribal fighters made a push further into Sirwah, a district seen as the key area leading to the capital, Sanʻa. They were able to gain another position in the Mashjaʻ area of Sirwah, as pro-Houthi forces retreated under heavy airstrikes and artillery barrages. However, clashes are still taking place in other parts of Marib.

In al-Baydha, intermittent clashes between pro-Houthi forces and local tribal fighters took place mainly in two areas of the governorate, while Saudi-led warplanes provided the local resistance with air support. Airstrikes hit the provincial security building in downtown al-Baydha, while others targeted a number of positions of the pro-Houthi forces on the outskirts of the city.

In Ibb city, clashes have escalating over the past two weeks, especially after the Saudi-led coalition decided to supply the local resistance fighters with arms and provide them aerial support. The fighting has been taking place in the eastern areas near al-Dhaliʻ governorate. Some local observers, however, opine that the “liberation” of the neighboring cities of Taʻiz and Ibb should begin simultaneously.

On Monday, November 2, Cyclone Chapala swept over the Yemeni island of Suqutra, killing three people and injuring many more. The storm, which meteorologists called the most powerful to hit Yemen in recent history, made landfall on Yemen's southern coast the following day, flooding the city of al-Mukalla and other coastal towns. Recent reports say that more than 40,000 citizens have been displaced by the storm, which has dropped as much as a decade's worth of rain on some parts of the country already. Emirati and Omani authorities have already dispatched aid to Suqutra; al-Mukalla, which has been under the control of al-Qaeda for several months, has yet to receive outside assistance.

Mafraj Radio #22: A conflict retrospective

On this episode we revisit three of the most important interviews we've broadcast since the beginning of Yemen's internationalized armed conflict in March of this year: Nadwa al-Dawsari on the conflict in Marib, Alex Potter on Yemeni refugees and life during wartime in San‘a, and Professor Muneer Ahmed on the conflict's impact on al-Hudaydah and the Tihamah. 

The Marib offensive, three weeks in

On the surrounding rocky hills some four kilometers to the west of Marib City, pro-Houthi forces have been holding positions since early this month, while the Saudi-led coalition’s own forces along with local tribal fighters fight to sweep them out of the way to the capital, Sanʻa. The coalition’s ground offensive in the oil-rich governorate of Marib, in central Yemen, is part of a larger strategy to take control of Sanʻa, some 175 km to the west of the governorate. The ongoing battle in Marib, though, seems to have produced a standoff so far, two weeks after the ground offensive officially began on September 13, hours after the exiled President Hadi and his government in Riyadh backed out of UN-sponsored talks to end the months-long conflict in Yemen.

According to several sources in Marib, however, clashes between tribal fighters and pro-Houthi forces were already taking place more than a week earlier. The coalition-trained Maribi fighters and coalition armed forces were “sent as reinforcements.”

“The fighting broke out late in August in Sirwah district [northwest of Marib], when the Houthis attempted to make a push toward Marib City,” a tribal elder in the city told the YPP via telephone, indicating that the clashes between the warring parties were escalating day by day.

Coalition forces based in the Safer area, to the east of Marib City, have been reportedly preparing to mount a ground offensive as part of their larger campaign to “liberate” Houthi-controlled Sanʻa, in what was allegedly dubbed “Operation Sweeping Current.”

Meanwhile, pro-Houthi forces were able to advance on the rocky hills outside Marib, after fierce clashes along three fronts there killed dozens on both sides, according to local tribal and military sources.

On September 4, Houthis also fired a short-range ballistic missile from Bayhan district of the neighboring Shabwah province, killing 67 Emirati, Saudi, Bahraini soldiers as well as an unknown number of local tribal fighters at a camp in Safer.

By September 8, four days after the ballistic missile attack, hundreds of trained tribal fighters along with a number of coalition’s own forces were seen heading for Marib city, coming from Safer.

“At least 700 local fighters, who were trained in Saudi Arabia along with troops from the coalition forces, have arrived in the headquarters of the 3rd Military Region and a military base in Sahn al-Jin area,” military sources in Marib told the YPP, pointing out that the military base in the area is used as a training camp for the local fighters.

The military sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that these allied troops were “sent as reinforcements on Tuesday [September 8],” after the pro-Houthi forces took control of three positions near the rocky hills.

Despite those reinforcements, the pro-Houthi forces “started to carry out heavy missile attacks using Katyusha and Uragan BM-27 rocket launchers, targeting both the HQ of the 3rd Military Region and the training camp,” said the sources, adding that several coalition troops were killed, and a number of armored vehicles destroyed.

On that day, the UAE government officially stated that one Emirati soldier was killed in the Marib fighting. There had been no official comments from the other Gulf States participating in the current ground offensive, but Houthi-affiliated media outlets claimed that two Qatari soldiers were killed, and that a score of armored vehicles were totally destroyed. Those figures could not be confirmed independently.

In response, the tribal fighters fought their way back to the western areas of al-Jufaina, Edat al-Raa’ and Tabbat al-Masaryah, where pro-Houthi forces are holding their positions. Coalition fighter jets and Apache helicopters provided the Maribi fighters with air support, according to both military sources.

On September 12, the Saudi-led coalition officially announced the ground offensive in Marib, hours after the exiled government in Riyadh announced it would not participate in the UN-backed peace talks, which were expected to be held in few days later.

On Friday, September 25, at least 1,000 local fighters, who had been trained in Saudi Arabia, crossed through the town of al-Abr in Hadhramawt governorate, and headed for Marib aboard military armored vehicles and tanks.

The military sources said that these troops arrived at the HQ of the 3rd Military Region and the military base in Sahn al-Jin area. “But this time, the troops advanced under an air cover and after heavy airstrikes” on Houthi positions. According to several tribal sources in Marib, the fighters aboard military armored trucks pushed into the western fronts under heavy aerial cover on Saturday, indicating that al-Jufaina and Tabbat al-Masaryah fronts have seen the most brutal fighting.

On Sunday, a weapons depot in Tabbat al-Masaryah was bombed by airstrikes and flames were seen rising above this rocky hill front, according to the sources. The airstrikes have also targeted a Houthi checkpoint in Harib area of Shabwah, on the border with Marib, killing a number of Houthi fighters including their leader, who was identified as Abo Malek al-Khawlani.

On Monday, the tribal fighters closed in on the pro-Houthi forces at the Tabbat al-Masaryah front in the northwest, and were poised to drive them out from two positions, said a local tribal source, indicating that the push uphill was preceded with the heaviest airstrikes and the artillery shells yet seen. However, the Houthi-affiliated TV channel al-Masira said that Houthi forces were making "a tactical retreat," and that "the aggressors were using internationally banned missiles".

The fighting is not over yet in Marib; on Sunday the convoy of one of the Yemeni military commanders in charge of “liberating” Marib, Brigadier al-Qumayri, hit a landmine planted by the pro-Houthi forces. Four of al-Qumayri's body guards were killed, including his son, Hamza, and several others were injured, while he survived the bombing unscathed, according to a tribal source.

Update: Yemen Press reported on Tuesday that tribal and coalition forces had gained full control of Marib Dam, as well as Tabbat al-Masaryah. The YPP's sources confirmed those reports.

September 8-17: Marib offensive heats up, PM returns to Aden

Following the breakdown of UN-backed talks in the Omani capital, Muscat, the envoy to Yemen has urged the warring parties to return to the table to end the six-month conflict. Exiled President Hadi and his government in Riyadh announced Sunday that they will not participate in the upcoming UN peace talks, although the UN Envoy Ould Sheikh Ahmed earlier welcomed the warring parties’ readiness.  

In a statement, Ahmed said that the Houthi and GPC representatives “have shown a great degree of flexibility” during the recent talks held for weeks in Muscat.

Hadi’s announcement came one day after the Saudi-led coalition’s own forces have mounted a fresh offensive in the oil-rich province of Marib, along with trained local tribal fighters.

It’s been five days now since the launch of Marib Offensive, although clashes have reportedly been taking place in the southeastern areas of Marib since last Tuesday, when the Hadi-allied forces along with dozens of armored vehicles were sent from the eastern area of Safer to the headquarters of the 3rd Military Region and an allied military base nearby.

The southern and western areas have seen attack-and-retreat fighting, with troops from the coalition forces trying to advance eastward to al-Jufaina and al-Fow areas, while others are trying to regain Dhat al-Ra’, where the tribal encampments of both Nakhla and al-Suahil are held by the pro-Houthi forces.  Pro-Houthi forces have been trying to fend off any advancement of their opponents, reportedly using BM-22 rocket launchers against coalition armored vehicles. They claim to have destroyed more than 20 armored vehicles in addition to killing and arresting several troops from the coalition forces.

The UAE government has officially announced that one Emirati soldier was killed in Marib fighting, days after it said that the death toll of its soldiers, who killed by the ballistic missile attack on September 4 in Marib had risen to 52 soldiers. While Qatar’s government has not yet commented officially, Houthi-affiliated media claim that a senior Qatari officer was killed.

The coalition’s fighter jets and Apache helicopters were providing air support/cover in Marib fighting and targeted any suspected movement by the pro-Houthi forces in areas located on the borderlines with Shabwa, al-Baydha and al-Jawf provinces. The warplanes also destroyed the road connecting Marib to the capital, San’a, after it was reportedly designated (by the Popular Resistance) as a military target.

The fighter jets also hit residential areas in several cities and towns, killing dozens of civilians, mostly children and women. On Tuesday alone, at least 10 cities were hit by airstrikes; over a hundred civilians were reportedly killed and wounded. The six-month war has killed more than 4,500 Yemenis and brought the country to the brink of famine.

Across the Saudi border, pro-Houthi units have killed several Saudi soldiers and captured military bases in Najran, Jaizan and Aseer cities. The Saudi government announced that five soldiers were killed in Najran.

Meanwhile, Vice President and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah arrived in Aden along with seven ministers from the government in exile. This second appearance since his first brief visit on the first of August comes as a step toward restoring a government after months of working from exile Riyadh. "Khaled Bahah and the ministers who arrived with him are in Aden to stay permanently," said exiled government spokesman Rajeh Badi.

September 1–7: Airstrikes intensify after Marib missile attack

The UN-backed talks in the Omani capital, Muscat, have failed to bring Yemen’s warring parties any closer to an agreement; pro-Houthi/Saleh units have launched another short-range ballistic missile, killing dozens of Saudi, Emirati, and Bahraini troops in Marib, while other units continued to attack Saudi military installations across the border; the coalition has again intensified its airstrikes on Sanʻa and other cities in what has been seen as retaliation for the ballistic missile attack; two brigades of soldiers from Saudi-led coalition have been deployed in Aden; Qatari troops have reportedly joined the battle; fighting in the central governorates of Taʻiz, Ibb, and al-Baydha has been raging on since early last week. Last week, Yemeni political representatives, involved in weeks-long negotiations in Muscat, heatedly debated the seven-point proposal on the table. The Houthis and their allies put forth an initiative, seen as a concession and an alternative to the seven-point proposal, which requires them to implement UNSC resolution 2216 immediately. The initiative includes a number of points, the most important of which is the return of the exiled government to Sanʻa for 90 days. As a result, the negotiations have hit a stumbling block once again. On Monday, September 7, the Houthi and GPC delegates returned to Sanʻa, while reports indicate that disputes among members of the exiled government have started to appear on the surface.

On Friday, another short-range ballistic missile was fired by pro-Houthi/Saleh units toward a camp, some 25 km from Marib city, where coalition forces were deployed as a prelude to an assault on Sanʻa via Marib. The missile attack killed 45 Emirati soldiers, 10 Saudis, and five Bahrainis, in addition to tribal fighters allied with the coalition. The attack came two days after the Chief of Staff and the Interior Minister of the exiled government came to Safer area of Marib. On the day of the attack, the Chief of Staff was reportedly sacked.

The Saudi-led coalition has intensified the aerial bombardment on Sanʻa and other cities, killing scores of civilians. At least 10 cities and towns have been hit over the past week. Since Friday, at least 27 were reportedly killed in Sanʻa alone.

The coalition has deployed 8,000 additional troops in the southern port city of Aden. A brigade including 5,000 Southern Resistance fighters has been reportedly dissolved, after mutiny erupted and the commander was seriously injured. One thousand Qatari troops have also been sent to Yemen, while Sudanese forces are reportedly being prepared to be sent as well.

August 25–31: Fighting rages on in Hudaydah, Ta‘iz, Marib, and Shabwah

As another month of war comes to a close, a peaceful resolution to Yemen’s conflict is no closer. UN-backed talks in the Omani capital, Muscat, seem to be doomed to failure; a Scud missile, reportedly fired from Yemen’s capital towards the Saudi city of Jaizan, was seen as a sign of determination and a message of defiance from the Houth-Saleh alliance; a fresh battle is taking shape in al-Hudaydah; Houthis and their allies have regained more positions in Taʻiz; troops from the Saudi-led coalition, deployed recently in Marib, have already advanced on Shabwah and will return to the neighboring governorates of Marib and al-Jawf ahead of the expected Sanʻa battle, while a brigade involving at least 5000 troops from the Southern Popular Resistance in Aden city has been formed to take charge of the city’s security. At least eight cities have been hit by the airstrikes over the past week, where scores of civilians have reportedly been killed, while Houthi-Saleh units continued to intensify their cross-border attacks on Saudi army installations. The UN special envoy, currently based in Muscat, has been pushing for a political settlement since early last week, but the exiled government in Riyadh is sticking to its previous demand that the Houthis withdraw from occupied cities and hand over their arms prior to any further negotiations. The Houthis, however, warned they would carry out “a disastrous response” if the Muscat talks failed. On Wednesday, a Scud missile was fired from Sanʻa, targeting a power plant in the Saudi city of Jaizan.

In the western coastal governorate of al-Hudaydah, clashes erupted in the southern town of al-Durayhimi between tribal fighters from the Zaraniq tribe and Houthis as they were trying to send reinforcement to Taʻiz. Houthi forces seem poised to take control of the road to Taʻiz, where they have also retaken some western districts.

In the southeastern province of Shabwah, Apache helicopters were seen supporting the Saudi-led coalition forces that advanced to liberate the area late on Friday. Dozens of Houthis were reportedly killed. But in the neighboring governorate of Marib, fighting escalated over the weekend, with the Houthis gaining ground after reportedly using rockets and missiles in the battle.


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.

June 16-22: Geneva talks fail, IS kills civilians in Sanʻa

News coverage over the past week has been dominated by the UN-sponsored talks in Geneva, which yielded no tangible results. Bombings attributed to local affiliates of the Islamic State have also drawn the attention. The failure of Geneva talks, which wrapped up on Friday, seemed to be well predicted in the local press coverage. On Tuesday, UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed opened the preliminary consultations with the conflicting parties after the Houthi-led delegates from Sanʻa were finally able to arrive in Geneva. But the delegates from Riyadh (representing the Hadi regime in exile) and Sanʻa refused to meet in one place; the talks were conducted with the two groups in separate rooms. In the end, mediators failed to come up with the hoped-for seven-point statement, which would have included a ceasefire during the holy month of Ramadan.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led airstrikes continued to hit several cities across the country as the pro-Houthi/Saleh forces continued to advance in the adjacent governorates of Marib and al-Jawf.

On Saturday, hours after the Geneva talks came to an end, airstrikes hit the runways of Sanʻa International Airport and al-Dailami Airbase in the capital, which was seen as a way of preventing the Houthi-led delegates from returning to Sanʻa. On Sunday, Sirah Fortress in Aden and the Great Dam of Marib were both hit by Saudi airstrikes.

Although the airstrikes were providing air cover for the so-called “popular resistance” fighters over the past week, the pro-Houthi/Saleh forces claimed to have captured three tribal encampments—Nakhla, al-Suhail, and Labant—out of five spread alongside the capital city of the oil-rich province of Marib. Moreover, clashes continued to rage in the southern cities of Aden, al-Dhaliʻ and Lahj as well as the central cities of Taʻiz and al-Baydha.

Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed Sanʻa-based branch of the Islamic State has resurfaced, having been quiet since its devestating March attack on mosques frequented by Houthi loyalists (among others). On the eve of Ramadan (Wednesday), four car bombs simultaneously targeted two Sanʻa mosques, the Houthi Political Bureau, and the house of a leading member of Ansar Allah. On Saturday, the same group allegedly carried out another car bomb attack on a mosque in the Old City of Sanʻa, killing at least two people.

Marib: Yemen's perpetual front line

Mafraj Blog contributor Mohammed Ali Kalfood reports on the conflict in Marib. For more on this issue, listen to our interview with Nadwa al-Dawsari on episode 18 of Mafraj Radio. In five encampments spread along three sides of Marib city in east Yemen, local tribal fighters have been holding their ground against forces loyal to the Houthi movement and former president ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Saleh since last September, when the Houthis took over Yemen’s capital. Following the fall of Sanʻa, pro-Houthi units advanced on Marib, as well as other strategically important parts of the country.

Since then, sporadic clashes have taken place in Marib Governorate, where crucial elements of Yemen’s energy sector are located. Thousands of armed tribesmen, who hail from five key tribes in the province, have mobilized their local fighters to repel the Houthi fighters advancing on their fatherland along with pro-Saleh forces.

The Houthis and their allies claim that the Marib tribes are harboring elements of al-Qaeda in Yemen, a justification that has been disputed by several local observers.

“We have solid evidence of an al-Qaeda presence in Marib, as tribes have provided refuge for its elements,” Tawfiq al-Himyari, a member on the Houthi movement’s ‘Revolutionary Committee’ in Sanʻa, said in an interview.

Four months after the Houthis’ seizure of the capital—days before the now-exiled President Abdu Rabbu Mansur Hadi was placed under house arrest—the movement’s leader, ‘Abd al-Malik al-Houthi, issued four demands in a televised speech. One of those demands was that President Hadi act immediately to secure Marib, where, al-Houthi said, al-Qaeda elements and allied saboteurs continued to carry out attacks on an important oil pipeline and the national electricity grid. Back then, al-Houthi also accused both Hadi and the Islamist Islah party of empowering al-Qaeda.

Soon after the Houthis siezed power and placed Hadi under house arrest, Marib’s major tribes “openly expressed their support” to President Hadi. On the day the Houthis announced their “constitutional declaration” in the capital, Marib tribes announced their “autonomy” from Sanʻa as their fighters established their encampments, effectively closing all entrances to Marib province.

But ‘Ali al-Qibli Namran, Chief of the Tribal Federation in Marib, argues that there is no presence of al-Qaeda in the province, and that is just “an excuse” the Houthis like to make.

“Al-Houthi always raises and makes up excuses that are, as a matter of fact, issues of concern to the public and the international community in order to gain acquiescence and overlook his expansion into the cities and provinces he wants to control,” Namran said.

"If there is anyone suspected of belonging to al-Qaeda, then the government, with the cooperation of the people of Marib, have the sole responsibility to fight and arrest him, and if al-Qaeda had a presence in Marib, it would have attacked oil and electricity facilities as well as army camps.”

But al-Qaeda has carried out sporadic attacks in this oil-rich province, and its presence there is believed to pre-date the first US drone strike in Yemen in 2002.  According to local experts, the Houthi expansion into other parts of Yemen may also increase rivalry with the local branch of al-Qaeda in Yemen.

“The expansion of the Houthi group into several areas has ratcheted up rivalry with the extremist factions, and paved the way for such factions to be recruited as fighters,” said Ahmed Arami, a writer and political analyst from Radaʻ district of al-Baydha, which the Houthis entered last November “to fight al-Qaeda there,” before they turned to the neighboring province of Marib.

The Houthis also used the phenomenon of attacks on oil and power installations to justify their invasion of Marib. Such attacks became common after the May 2010 killing of Marib’s deputy governor, Jaber al-Shabwani. Al-Shabwani, who was negotiating with AQAP on behalf of the Yemeni government, was allegedly killed by an American missile strike based on intelligence provided by then-President ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Saleh.

Clashes have chiefly been taking place in the western districts of Marib since September, although lately the pro-Houthi/Saleh forces have tried to advance on the city from the northern, western, and southern sides, according to local tribal sources.

“Five tribal encampments have been set up: in Nakhla of al-Wadi district to the north of Marib; in al-Suhail of Sirwah district to the northwest; in al-Washamah of Jouba district, and Najd al-Majma’ah of al-Rahabah district to the southwest; as well as al-Labanat of Sirwah district to the northwest,” one of the tribal elders of the Jihm tribe, ‘Abdullah Bin Tayman said.

“We will defend and protect the province at any cost,” said Tayman, indicating that all tribes have vowed, “Marib will never be captured by the Houthis, who are backed Saleh and Iran.”

While the Houthis were seeking to mobilize tribal support on their side, other tribes from the neighboring provinces of al-Jawf, al-Baydha, and Shabwa have sided with the tribal fighters of Marib and joined the battle as well, according to local sources.

According to tribal elder Tayman, “clashes have lately intensified in Sirwah district and nearby areas,” adding that “the tribal resistance has lost at least 50 tribesmen while scores of Houthis and their allies [pro-Saleh forces] have been killed.”

Analysts in Sanʻa say that the Marib frontline has been “slowly but surely escalating,” although since President Hadi was forced to flee his provisional capital of Aden, the fighting has become more focused on the southern part of Yemen.

“The fighting in Marib, as in several Yemeni cities, is merely politically motivated, and gradually increasing and becoming a real threat to the entire country, especially when half of the 800 megawatt of power, which the country produces, in addition to the majority of oil derivatives, come from Marib,” said Ahmed al-Hasaani, a political analyst in Sanʻa.

According to Saeed al-Youssifi, a local activist in Marib, the five-day “humanitarian pause” agreed to by Saudi Arabia and Ansar Allah did not include a cessation of combat in Marib.

“After the ceasefire began [on Tuesday, May 12], clashes broke out again and lasted for about 12 hours,” said al-Youssifi, adding that “the Saudi warplanes have been providing air cover for the tribal fighters.”

However, fighting on the Marib frontline over the past seven months seems to have produced a standoff, although fierce clashes have spread to three bordering provinces, al-Jawf, al-Baydha and Shabwah, where the pro-Houthi/Saleh forces have apparently gained ground, according to several local activists in Marib.

While the Marib battle has not been a major topic in ‘Abd al-Malik al-Houthi’s recent speeches, Revolutionary Committee member Tawfiq al-Himyari argued that “the battle in Marib has yet to begin to purge the city of al-Qaeda and its partners.”

Mafraj Radio #18: Marib, Saudi politics, and Change Square in photos

On this episode we take a closer look at one of the many front lines in Yemen's civil war(s), the governorate of Marib, where local tribes are fighting to repel pro-Houthi and pro-Saleh forces. We also talk about the politics behind Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen, and look back at Change Square, four years after Yemen's popular uprising.

April 23-30: Humanitarian situation worsens as war drags on

Over the last week, the press coverage has again spotlighted the countrywide humanitarian crisis as the Saudi warplanes above and the fierce battles on the ground continue to rage on in several of Yemen’s largest cities. Early last week, the second phase of the Saudi-led aerial campaign began, part of what the Saudis have dubbed “Operation Restoring Hope.” Two days later, the airstrikes resumed in the capital Sanʻa, and by the end of the week they hit a residential area to the northeast of the capital, killing at least 13 civilians. The runways of Sanʻa Airport, the country’s last operating airport, have been repeatedly hit in the face of the worsening humanitarian crisis. Aid agencies lost this only usable route and urgent flights for stranded Yemenis were put on hold. More than 5,000 Yemenis have reportedly been stranded abroad indefinitely.

As airstrikes and civil conflict continue, Yemenis are running out of necessary supplies, in desperate need of food, fuel and water. More than 1,200 people have been killed in the last month, while 300,000 have been internally displaced since the start of the conflict [editor’s note: roughly the same number again were already displaced before the current war started]. Three cities were declared “disaster areas,” while seven others are facing horrific humanitarian situations.

Across Yemen, at least 23 hospitals have been attacked, and 30 schools damaged or occupied by fighters of the warring parties, according to UNICEF. All schools and universities in the capital Sanʻa are still on hold.

Among several main cities, three have been witnessing the fiercest clashes between pro-Houthi/Saleh forces and their opponents over the few past weeks: Aden, Taʻiz and Marib.

In the southern port city of Aden, more than 50 people were killed last week. A two-hour respite was called for by aid workers so that bodies could be carted away in Khormaksar, where hundreds of families are trapped with scarce food and water, while electricity and fuel supplies are almost gone.

In the central city of Taʻiz, fighting has been intensified amid airstrikes as air cover for the pro-Hadi local fighters, while weapons were being airdropped for them to fend off their opponents.

In Marib, like in Taʻiz, pro-Hadi forces along with armed tribesmen are being given air cover while trying to fight off the pro-Houthi/Saleh forces that have surrounded the city from three sides [editor’s note: the term “pro-Hadi” is applied in some sources to forces in various parts of the country, but in fact things are not so clear-cut. In Taʻiz the forces opposing the Houthi-Saleh coalition seem to be mainly military units aligned with General ‘Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar and tribal levies associated with the Islah party. In Aden, by contrast, most of the resistance comes from locally-formed militias, most of which are tied to the Southern Movement. In Marib, local tribes are fighting the Houthi-Saleh forces to defend their own territory, but have no particular loyalty to the Hadi regime].

While the Houthis insist they will not return to dialogue unless “the Saudi aggression is completely stopped,” Yemeni political factions will reportedly hold a conference in Riyadh within two weeks.