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Month 17 in the Yemen War: Hostilities Increase After Latest Peace Talks Falter, NGOs and US Government Further Disengage
This undated photo shows Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz while inspecting Saudi army units in the Southern Region. (SPA)
This week’s snapshot focuses on the latest developments in the Yemeni Civil War as it passes the 17 month mark. Yemen’s internationally recognized government, headed by Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr and President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, moved to Aden when Houthi insurgents took control of Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, along with the Central Bank in SEP14. The Houthis are allied with forces loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and reportedly receive support from Iran. Further complicating the landscape, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State group also operate in the war-torn country.
On 21MAR15, after taking over Sana’a and the Yemeni government, the Houthi-led Supreme Revolutionary Committee declared a general mobilization to overthrow Hadi and further their control by driving into the southern provinces. On 25MAR15, a coalition led by the Riyadh began military operations by using airstrikes to restore the ousted Yemeni government. Saudi King Salman’s deputy crown prince and the world’s youngest minister of defense, Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, is understood to be the architect of the Kingdom’s war in Yemen. The United States has provided intelligence and logistical support for the campaign. Controversial Saudi targets and the surging civilian deaths have spurred criticism of the Kingdom’s conduct from various institutions, including accusations of possible war crimes. After the early AUG16 collapse of UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait there has been a significant increase in violence.
News summary of events during the week of 15AUG16-22AUG16
15AUG: According to Doctors Without Borders, Saudi-led coalition air strikes hit a hospital in a rebel-held province of northwestern Yemen, killing 11 and injuring 19 others. (AFP)
16AUG: Tamim al-Shami, spokesman for the Houthi-controlled Health Ministry, condemned an airstrike carried out by the Saudi-led military coalition that hit a hospital. (AP)
16AUG: A suicide car bombing killed four pro-government Yemeni soldiers and injured six others in the southern province of Abyan. (Xinhua)
16AUG: Houthi shelling killed seven civilians in southern Saudi Arabia, while an air strike by the Arab coalition destroyed a house east of the Yemeni capital, killing nine family members. (Reuters)
16AUG: After an escalation of fighting following suspension of peace talks, the Saudi-led coalition accused Houthi militants of using the negotiations to re-arm. (AFP)
16AUG: The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that more than 13 health workers lost their lives and another 23 have been injured since MAR15. (Xinhua)
17AUG: Amnesty International urged the Houthi rebels to release 27 members of the minority Baha’i faith detained in the capital without charge. (AFP)
18AUG: The Saudi-led military coalition conducted 95 airstrikes throughout Yemen over 24 hours, killing at least six women in two cities. (Xinhua)
18AUG: Yemeni troops launched a bid to break a rebel siege of the country’s third city of Taez, with fighting leaving five soldiers and 13 insurgents dead. (AFP)
18AUG: Doctors Without Borders announced it was evacuating its staff from six hospitals in northern Yemen. (AFP)
19AUG: US officials reported that they withdrew from Saudi Arbia the American military personnel who were help coordinating with the Saudi-led air campaign. (Reuters)
19AUG: The Saudi-led alliance expressed “extreme sorrow” over medical aid group Doctors Without Borders’ decision to withdraw its staff from the northern part of the country. (DPA)
20AUG: Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis marched in support of Shiite Houthi rebels and their ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. (AP)
20AUG: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said his country is gravely concerned over the escalation of fighting in Yemen and called on parties in the conflict to sit down at the negotiating table. (Sputnik)
20AUG: Rockets fired by Yemeni rebels into a Saudi border city killed a Saudi civilian and wounded six others including a Pakistani man. (AFP)
21AUG: Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Bogdanov said that his government supports the legitimacy of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, and rejects the “coup” carried out by the Shiite Houthi rebel movement that exiled Hadi out of the country. (WAM)
22AUG: Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh said a newly-formed governing council could work with Russia to “fight terrorism” by allowing Moscow use of the war-torn country’s military bases. (Reuters)
22AUG: Control Arms, an arms watchdog, urged major weapons exporters, including the United States and France, to cut sales to Saudi Arabia over its actions in Yemen, as a conference on global arms trade opened in Geneva. (AFP)
Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about the latest in the Yemeni Civil War
@altoflacoblanco – Peter Salisbury, Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House
@IbnAbbadi – Khaled Al-Abbadi, Executive Director, Aden Research Corporation
@omeisy – Hisham Al-Omeisy, Political and information analyst based in Sana’a
@shireen818 – Shireen Al-Adeimi, PhD Candidate, Harvard
@Shuaibalmosawa – Shuaib M. Almosawa, Freelance Yemeni journalist
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the Yemeni Civil War
Anthony H. Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy, CSIS
“Yemen’s strategic position at the gates to the Red Sea and long border with Saudi Arabia do make it a potential strategic threat. At least for the foreseeable future, however, the most that one can hope for is to limit and contain its violence and role in terrorism and in the growing tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Any end to conflict is likely to be temporary or illusory, and serious nation building is likely to be impossible. The United States still needs a strategy for both the military and civil side of Yemen’s fighting and instability, and it sill has to make hard choices, but the best real-world strategy is likely to be an awkward and unstable mix of containment and finding the least bad options.”
“U.S. Wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen: What Are The Endstates?”, CSIS, 15AUG16
Daniel Depetris, Associate analyst, Raddington Group; Researcher, Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts, University of Arizona
“It is past time for the permanent members of the UN Security Council to call a special session with the goal of passing a new resolution authorizing a new formula for peace — one that doesn’t play into the hands of either side and is the most likely to succeed over the long-term. This means dispelling or modifying the terms in Resolution 2216, which calls on the Houthis to immediately and unilaterally surrender before discussions on a transitional government can proceed. It also means strengthening the sanctions and arms embargo inspection authorities against any individual, commander, or military unit that the Secretary-General and the Special Envoy assess as an impediment to political progress towards a negotiated resolution — regardless of which side the perpetrator may be fighting for. “
“Yemen Talks at a Standstill”, Atlantic Council, 18AUG16
Nicholas Jonsson, Analyst, Critical Threats Project, American Enterprise Institute
“Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is attacking military and government targets in an effort to delegitimize the Hadi government and position itself as an alternative source of governance in southern Yemen…Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham cells in Yemen continue to assassinate local leaders in a campaign to destabilize Aden and delegitimize the Hadi government.”
“2016 Yemen Crisis Situation Report: August 4”, AEI, 04AUG16
Farea al-Muslimi, Yemeni specialist and visiting scholar, Carnegie Middle East Center
“Both sides now are trying to prove they are better in war than peace…[When the Houthis and their allies on 06AUG appointed a council to govern Yemen,] That was [an] unexpected move, for the Saudis especially…Riyadh could not tolerate the threat to the legitimacy of Hadi’s government.”
“Saudi facing ‘long’ Yemen war after talks fail”, AFP, 17AUG16
Bruce Riedel, Senior fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution; Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
“Washington has been mostly an observer to the Yemeni crisis and US Secretary of State John Kerry has not made it a priority for his diplomacy. Behind the scenes, American diplomats have tried to help the UN process, but with no success. Yemen is simply not a priority. Meanwhile, half the Yemeni people are undernourished. Tens of thousands of children are at risk. The richest countries in the Arab world are bombing the poorest country and the world is preoccupied with other affairs.”
“Saudi Arabia’s Moment of Truth in Yemen”, Al-Monitor, 07AUG16
Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the Yemeni Civil War
1. Saudi soldiers get Yemen war bonus from king
Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Date: 15 August 2016
Riyadh, Aug 15, 2016 (AFP) – Saudi soldiers on the front lines of the war in Yemen are getting a month’s extra salary from King Salman, official media said.
The handout comes after an escalation of the 17-month-old war following the suspension of peace talks between Yemeni rebels and the internationally recognized government.
2. Yemen’s Houthi rebels condemn hospital airstrike
Media: Associated Press
Date: 16 August 2016
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen’s Houthi rebels are condemning an airstrike carried out by the Saudi-led military coalition that hit a hospital, killing 11 people.
Tamim al-Shami, spokesman for the Houthi-controlled Health Ministry, said Tuesday the strike on a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders in the northern town of Abs was one of many attacks on civilians carried out by Saudi “aggressors.”
3. Saudi facing ‘long’ Yemen war after talks fail
Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Date: 17 August 2016
Riyadh, Aug 17, 2016 (AFP) – Six months after Saudi Arabia said its war in Yemen was winding down, air strikes are again pounding rebels and rockets flying across the border, with no end to the conflict in sight.
Facing criticism of its bombing campaign and a budget crunch from low oil prices, Riyadh is keen to bring an end to the intervention it launched last year against Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies, analysts say.
4. 6 women die as airstrikes escalate overnight in Yemen: officials
Media: Xinhua (China)
Date: 18 August 2016
SANAA, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) — A Saudi-led military coalition fighting Shiite Houthi rebels conducted 95 airstrikes throughout Yemen in the last 24 hours, killing at least six women in two cities, officials and residents said Thursday.
Residents from a district in the province of Taiz said coalition warplanes, fighting to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, bombed a bridge in the district of Alsolu overnight as well.
5. Saudi-led alliance bombing Yemen sorry for MSF’s decision to withdraw
Media: Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA)
Date: 19 August 2016
Cairo (dpa) – The Saudi-led alliance that has been bombing Yemen since March last year on Friday expressed “extreme sorrow” over medical aid group Doctors Without Borders’ decision to withdraw its staff from the northern part of the country.
The group, also known as MSF, said Thursday it was evacuating its staff from six hospitals it supports in northern Yemen after an airstrike at one of the facilities left 19 people dead.
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