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Yemen, at war since 2014

16 December 2018   |   11:16 am
Impoverished Yemen has been mired in devastating conflict between Iran-backed rebels and troops loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi since 2014.

Yemeni men, loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, take part in military training in the city of Aden (AFP Photo/Saleh Al-Obeidi)

Impoverished Yemen has been mired in devastating conflict between Iran-backed rebels and troops loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi since 2014.

Despite a UN-brokered ceasefire agreed as part of a wider accord in Sweden this month, deadly air strikes and clashes shook the outskirts of the vital port city of Hodeida on Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

Yemen’s war escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition intervened on the government’s side after the Huthi rebels seized the capital and several provinces.

According to the World Health Organization, around 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict, though some rights groups estimate the toll could be five times higher.

The war has triggered what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and it estimates 14 million Yemenis are on the brink of famine.

Save the Children says that between March 2015 and October 2018 around 85,000 children under five may have died of severe malnutrition or related diseases.

Rebellion in Sanaa
In July 2014, Huthi fighters, who have opposed the central government for a decade, launch an offensive from their northern stronghold of Saada.

In September, they enter the capital Sanaa, seizing the government’s headquarters.

The rebels ally themselves with military units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was forced to quit after a 2011 uprising.

In October, they capture the Red Sea port of Hodeida, a crucial entry point for imports and humanitarian aid.

In January 2015, after fierce battles in Sanaa, the Huthis seize the presidential palace and surround the residence of the new president, Hadi, who flees south to the city of Aden.

Saudi air strikes
A Saudi-led coalition enters the conflict in March 2015 with air strikes on rebels.

The Shiite Huthis are backed by Iran, a bitter rival of Sunni power Saudi Arabia.

As the rebels advance on Aden, Hadi quits the city amid intense fighting and takes refuge in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

In July, his embattled administration announces its forces have retaken the entire province of Aden, their first success since the coalition stepped in.

The city of Aden becomes the country’s de facto capital, with Sanaa still under rebel control.

By August, pro-government forces have retaken five southern provinces.

In October, pro-government forces reclaim control of the Bab al-Mandab Strait, an internationally vital shipping route off Yemen’s coast.

Rebels kill ex-president
In August 2016, lengthy UN-brokered negotiations in Kuwait between the government and rebels collapse after failing to reach a power-sharing deal.

Splits emerge in the rebel camp in 2017 after Saleh makes overtures to the Saudi-led coalition. Armed clashes rock Sanaa and in December the ex-president is assassinated by his former Huthi allies.

Hodeida offensive
In June 2018, government fighters, backed by Saudi and Emirati land forces, launch an offensive to retake Hodeida.

Within days they say that they have taken control of the city’s airport, but they halt their advance to allow negotiations.

UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva in September fail to take place, with the rebel delegation refusing to attend and claiming pre-conditions have not been met. The offensive resumes.

In November, 12 days of bombardment and fighting leave some 600 people dead, mostly fighters from both camps.

Peace talks breakthrough
UN envoy Martin Griffiths flies into Sanaa on November 21 for talks with rebel leaders. Days later he meets Yemeni officials in Riyadh.

Griffiths returns to Yemen on December 3, shortly before 50 wounded rebels are flown out on a UN charter flight for medical treatment in neighbouring Oman.

The next day a rebel delegation leaves with Griffiths heading for peace talks in Sweden, hours after the government and rebels agree to swap hundreds of prisoners. Talks between the two warring parties begin on December 6.

UN chief Antonio Guterres, in Sweden for the final day of the talks, announces on December 13 a series of breakthroughs including a ceasefire for Hodeida.

Fresh peace talks are planned for late January 2019.