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Yemen: A humanitarian crisis with thousands dead

People walk past a house destroyed by an air strike in the old quarter of Sanaa, Yemen August 8, 2018. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Apr 17, 2019, 02.13 PM (IST)

The conflict in Yemen, described by the United Nations as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, originated with the political transition that occurred in the country following the uprising of the Arab Spring.

The transition from the longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh to his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in 2011 was expected to bring stability to Yemen.

The new government under Hadi, however, struggled to deal with several problems.

Besides corruption, unemployment and food security, Hadi also faced difficulty in handling the security personnel who continued to exhibit loyalty to Saleh.

Hadi's government also faced attacks from the jihadists.

Taking advantage of the weak Hadi government, Yemen's Zaidi Shia Muslim minority who had fought series of rebellions against Saleh during the previous decade, took control of their northern heartland of Saada province and neighbouring areas. 

Yemen's Zaidi Shia Muslim minority's Houthi movement was also supported by many ordinary Yemenis - including Sunnis.

The Houthis and security forces loyal to Saleh then attempted to take control of the entire country, forcing Hadi to flee the country in March 2015.

The crisis in Yemen escalated in 2015 after the intervention of the Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states.

The rebels in the country, backed by Iran, fought against the Saudi-led military coalition which supported the government.

The war has since then left about 10,000 dead, the World Health Organisation states. The United Nations has also defined the conflict in Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Here is a broad overview:

Riyadh enters the war

Houthi fighters from the Zaidi Shiite minority, opposed to the central government for a decade, launch their offensive in mid-2014, seizing swathes of territory.

Their conquests include the capital Sanaa and the Red Sea port of Hodeida, a crucial entry point for imports and humanitarian aid.

A coalition led by regional Sunni power Saudi Arabia comes to the embattled government's aid on March 26, 2015, launching air strikes on rebels.

Their intervention is requested by Hadi, who moved to the southern city of Aden after the fall of Sanaa.

Riyadh has since deployed 1,50,000 troops and 100 fighter planes to the conflict, according to Saudi television Al-Arabiya.

The United Arab Emirates contributes 30 fighter jets. The United States says it is providing logistical support and intelligence.

Coalition successes

On March 27 the coalition says it has full control of Yemen's airspace and destroyed aircraft seized by the Houthis.

In July the Yemen government announces it has retaken the entire province of Aden, its first success since the coalition stepped in.

The coalition supplements its air power with hundreds of ground troops.

By mid-August 2015 loyalist forces have retaken five southern provinces. Aden city becomes the de facto capital, with Sanaa still under rebel control.

In October the government reclaims the Bab al-Mandab Strait, an internationally vital shipping route.

Saudi vs Iran

Splits emerge in the rebel camp in 2017 after their ally, ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, makes overtures to the Saudi-led coalition. 

Armed clashes rock Sanaa and in December he is assassinated by the Houthis.

In November 2017 Houthi rebels fire a missile in the direction of the international airport in Riyadh. 

Intercepted and destroyed, it is the first to reach the Saudi capital. Saudi Arabia is enraged, accusing its arch-foe Iran of "blatant military aggression" through its support for the rebels.

Iran denies supplying them with weapons.

Rebels have since regularly fired missiles at Saudi Arabia.

Battle for aid port

In December 2017 government forces make a breakthrough in efforts to reconquer the aid hub of Hodeida when they drive Houthi fighters out of a town en route.

As they press their advance, the insurgents' second-in-command, Saleh al-Sammad, dies in a coalition air raid in April 2018.

In June government fighters, backed by Saudi and Emirati land forces, launch an offensive on Hodeida.

With international players stepping up diplomatic efforts to end the war, government forces say in November they have orders to halt operations against the rebels.

Rebel leaders and Yemeni officials meet for UN-brokered talks in Sweden in December. 

After a week of meetings, a ceasefire in Hodeida is announced.

It comes into effect on December 18, 2018, but both sides accuse each other of violations.

A UN-led ceasefire monitoring team deploys to the city from December 22 but is unable to secure the pullback of armed forces, as agreed in the peace deal.

(With inputs from AFP)


Story highlights

The war in Yemen has left about 10,000 dead, the World Health Organisation states. The United Nations has also defined the conflict in Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.