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Timeline: Yemen’s grinding six-year war

The devastating war between Iran-backed Huthi rebels and Yemeni government forces backed by Saudi Arabia has left tens of thousands dead.

On Tuesday the Saudis offered a “comprehensive” ceasefire, a proposal the Huthis were quick to dismiss as “nothing new” while insisting an air and sea blockade be lifted first.

Here is a timeline of the conflict that the UN says has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

– 2014: Huthis take capital –

Huthi rebels from the country’s Zaidi Shiite minority in northern Yemen enter the capital Sanaa in September 2014, seizing the government headquarters.

Backed by regional Shiite heavyweight Iran, the rebels ally themselves with military units loyal to their former enemy, ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been forced to quit after a 2011 uprising.

As well as the capital, they seize swathes of territory including the vital Red Sea port of Hodeida.

President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi flees in February 2015 to the second city Aden, on Yemen’s south coast.

– 2015: Saudis step in –

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia, a bitter rival of Iran, enters the conflict the next month with air strikes on the rebels.

Washington says it is contributing logistics and intelligence.

As the rebels advance on Aden, Hadi flees to Saudi Arabia.

The coalition’s intervention helps pro-government forces to secure Aden, and in October they announce they have retaken control of the Bab al-Mandab Strait, one of the world’s most sensitive waterways.

– 2018: Battle for key port –

In June, government fighters, backed by Saudi and Emirati ground forces, launch an offensive to retake Hodeida, a key entry point for both humanitarian aid and commercial goods.

UN-brokered talks between the warring parties open in December, yielding a series of breakthroughs including a ceasefire in Hodeida.

But in mid-January 2021 violent clashes break out between rebels and pro-government soldiers in the south of the city.

– Separatists flex muscles –

The anti-Huthi camp is divided, and southern separatists frequently clash with unionists loyal to Hadi’s government.

South Yemen was an independent state before unifying with the north in 1990.

The separatists occupy the presidential palace in Aden in January 2018, before Saudi and Emirati forces intervene.

In August 2019, separatists in Aden from the UAE-trained Security Belt force clash again with unionist troops.

They later sign a power-sharing deal but it is never implemented, and finally crumbles when the separatists declare self-government on April 26, 2020.

– 2019: Saudi oil hit –

The rebels have escalated their attacks against Saudi Arabia, using drones and missiles.

A major hit is the September 14, 2019 attack on Saudi energy giant Aramco’s Abqaiq processing plant and Khurais oilfield, which halves the kingdom’s crude output.

The rebels claim the attack but Riyadh and Washington accuse Iran, which denies the charge.

– 2021: New escalation –

On February 8 the Huthis resume an offensive to seize oil-rich Marib province, the government’s last northern stronghold, as well as intensifying drone attacks against Abha airport in southern Saudi Arabia.

The upsurge in violence comes shortly after Washington ends its support for coalition military operations in Yemen and removes the Huthis from a blacklist of “terrorist” organisations.

– Worst humanitarian crisis –

Yemen’s grinding conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions, causing what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

More than 16 million Yemenis will face hunger this year, and nearly 50,000 are already starving in famine-like conditions, according to the latest UN data.

The world body warns that 400,000 Yemeni children under the age of five could die from acute malnutrition.

– Ceasefire? –

In a dramatic turn on Monday, Riyadh offers the Huthis “a comprehensive ceasefire… under the supervision of the UN”.

“We want the guns to fall completely silent,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan tells reporters.

But the Huthis dismiss the offer as “nothing new” and insist an air and sea blockade be lifted first.

“Saudi Arabia must declare an end to the aggression and lift the blockade completely, but putting forward ideas that have been discussed for over a year is nothing new,” says Huthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam.