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Yemen’s grinding six-year war

Published on 14/02/2021

Impoverished Yemen is mired in a devastating conflict between Iran-backed Huthi rebels and government forces backed by Saudi Arabia that has left tens of thousands dead.

mpoverished Yemen is mired in a devastating conflict between Iran-backed Huthi rebels and government forces backed by Saudi Arabia that has left tens of thousands dead.

Here is a timeline.

– Saudi-led intervention –
n September 2014, Huthi rebels from the country’s Zaidi Shiite minority in northern Yemen enter the capital Sanaa, 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.
n February 2015, President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi flees to second city Aden, on Yemen’s south coast.

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia, a bitter rival of Iran, enters the conflict on March 26, 2015 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.

– Battle for key port –
n June 2018 government fighters, backed by Saudi and Emirati ground forces, launch an offensive to retake Hodeida, a key entry point for both aid and commercial goods.

UN-brokered talks between the warring parties open in December, yielding a series of breakthroughs including a ceasefire in Hodeida, where the fighting largely stops.
n January 2020, a missile strike on a military camp in the northern town of Marib, blamed on the Huthis, kills 116 people and injures dozens.
n March, the rebels seize Al-Hazm, provincial capital of Al-Jawf province north of Sanaa, after heavy fighting.

– Southern separatists –

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

n 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.
t finally crumbles when the separatists declare self-government on April 26, 2020.

– Prisoner swap –
n a rare sign of progress, rebels and the government in October 2020 implement their biggest prisoner swap of the war, freeing more than 1,000 fighters.

That follows the release of two captive Americans, apparently in exchange for some 240 Huthi supporters.

But in a fresh escalation in November, rebels launch a missile attack on a Saudi Aramco oil facility in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

– Unity government –

On December 18, the government and southern separatists form a new cabinet, forging a joint front against the rebels.

On December 30, moments after the new unity government lands in Aden, explosions rock the airport, killing at least 26 people. Officials blame the rebels.

– 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.

UN agencies warn in February 2021 that about 400,000 Yemeni children aged under five are in danger of dying of acute malnutrition this year.

A further 1.2 million pregnant or breastfeeding women are expected to suffer from extreme malnutrition in 2021.

– New escalation –

On February 8, 2021, 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 — reversing a decision in the final days of the Trump administration.

The blacklisting had sparked an outcry from aid groups, who said it would severely hamper supplies of food and other aid to Yemen’s neediest areas.