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The civil war in Yemen

The civil war in Yemen
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Updated 30 May 2020

The civil war in Yemen

The civil war in Yemen

When Iran-backed Houthis descended on Aden, the Saudi-led coalition intervened
 

Summary

On March 22, 2015 Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, inspired by rapid military gains in northern Yemen, gave a televised speech calling for the mobilization of forces to defeat Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who had decamped to Aden from the captured capital Sanaa.

Hadi, backed by inadequate numbers of remaining troops and tribesmen, nevertheless vowed to resist the Houthi advance and requested military support from the neighboring Gulf states.

It came quickly, in the shape of a heavy aerial bombardment by a Saudi-led coalition that helped to tilt the balance of the conflict in favor of the government, which was able to recover control of almost 80 percent of the country. But the civil war, which has claimed the lives of thousands of Yemenis and driven many more toward starvation, continues with no end in sight.

Al-Mukalla, YEMEN: On March 22, 2015, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, the leader of Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia, appeared on TV calling for a general mobilization of fighters to expel Al-Qaeda and Daesh militants.

Two days earlier, more than 100 people had been killed by three suicide bombs detonated in mosques in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, which had been seized by the Houthis in September 2014. Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by the Yemeni branch of Daesh.

Here in Yemen, however, we knew that the Houthi leader’s real objective was to finally defeat Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who after the fall of Sanaa had decamped to Aden, now the country’s temporary capital.

A day before the Houthi leader’s call to arms, Hadi had given a defiant speech in which he vowed to raise the Yemeni flag inside the northwestern city of Saada, heartland of the Houthi insurgency, and to challenge Iran’s designs in Yemen.

I watched both speeches and sensed that a major showdown between the forces of the two leaders was inevitable. The Houthi leader’s speech coincided with the seizure by his forces of Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city, and their continuing march toward the southern provinces that were Hadi’s fiefdom.

Hadi was aware that the Houthis outnumbered and outgunned his ragtag forces, so he despatched his foreign minister to appeal on TV for military intervention from the neighboring Gulf states.

“The main aim of the military operations in Yemen currently is to cut off the major supply routes of the Houthis, a senior defense official said on Friday.”

From a story by Mohammed Al-Sulami on Arab News’ front page, March 28, 2015

Hadi received an immediate shot in the arm when on March 22, the UN Security Council reaffirmed “its strong commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen,” and “condemned the ongoing unilateral actions taken by the Houthis that were undermining the political transition process and jeopardizing the country’s security and stability.”

But the strongly worded statement did not stop the Houthis’ march toward Aden. As a Yemeni reporter who had been following the crisis since day one, I knew there was one man whose influence was inspiring the Houthis’ ruthless pursuit of Hadi: Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been Yemen’s president for three decades before he stepped down in February 2012 after months of turmoil in the country inspired by the Arab Spring protests.

Saleh was succeeded by Hadi, his deputy for 18 years. But even after leaving office, Saleh continued to exercise considerable influence over army units, facilitating the rapid military expansion of the Houthis.

This influence continued even after Saleh’s assassination in 2017 by the Houthis, following the collapse of the alliance between the two. Hadi later said when Saleh had stepped down as president, he had handed over only the flag of Yemen, and the army had ignored his successor’s orders to fight the Houthis.

Shortly after the Houthi leader’s speech, convoys of his troops descended on Aden, and given the speed of their expansion in northern Yemen, observers knew that they were poised to take the city and might capture Hadi for the second time.

Key Dates


  • 1

    Iran-backed Houthis seize control of Yemen’s capital Sanaa.

    Timeline Image Sept. 21, 2014


  • 2

    Houthis take over the government, dissolve Parliament and place Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi under house arrest.

    Timeline Image Feb. 6, 2015


  • 3

    Hadi flees to Aden, where he vows to defeat the Houthis.

    Timeline Image Feb. 21, 2015


  • 4

    Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi declares war on Hadi and orders troops to move to Aden.

    Timeline Image March 22, 2015


  • 5

    The Saudi-led coalition begins bombing Houthi forces, enabling loyalists to take the offensive.

    Timeline Image March 26, 2015

Hadi, meanwhile, had scrambled to bring together local tribesmen and remnants of army troops under the command of his Defense Minister Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Soubaihi. The continuing influence of Saleh’s grip on the army, however, was all too visible as military units in Dhale, Lahj, Abyan and Shabwa that had long been under the former president’s command threw their weight behind marching Houthi forces, smoothing their way to reach the outskirts of Aden within days.

The implications of the Houthi military expansion were huge. The civil war had allowed Al-Qaeda and Daesh to expand in southern provinces when thousands of army troops and other security forces had abandoned their positions to fight along with the Houthis.

Experts here told me at the time even that Saleh and the Houthis were behind the resurrection of Al-Qaeda and Daesh to discredit Hadi and create a rationale for invading Aden and neighboring provinces.




A page from the Arab News archive showing the news on March 28, 2015.

The civil war has disrupted the implementation of outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference. Starting on March 18, 2013, the conference brought together all Yemeni factions, including the Houthis, who agreed on solutions to the country’s many thorny issues.

The conference, which concluded on Jan. 22, 2014, approved a plan to divide the country into six semi-autonomous regions. But with the Houthis on the verge of seizing control of the whole country on March 22, 2015, it was impossible to put this plan into action.

The other consequence of the Houthis’ military activities has been the introduction of an unprecedented religious divide in Yemen’s political dialogue. Wars in the country had long been seen as competitions between different political or tribal forces. But when the Houthis, a Shiite group seeking to invade the Sunni-dominated south, it was to the sound of a new sectarian discourse.

At the peak of national frustration, relief came from the sky

Saeed Al-Batati

For days, as the Houthis crushed tribal and military resistance on their way to Aden, seizing control of the city’s airport on March 25, citizens and army commanders alike despaired that anything could blunt their advance. Hadi fled the country, and military officers who confided in me spoke of reverting to insurgency tactics rather than facing the superior Houthi forces in conventional battles.

Then, at the peak of national frustration, relief came from the sky. On March 26, 2015, an overjoyed military officer who had been a source of mine for more than a year called me at about 3 a.m., unable to wait until daylight to tell me the news. “Saeed, wake up! The Saudis have begun bombing the Houthis in Aden,” he said. “Now we can regroup and fight them off.”

It has not, of course, been quite that simple. Despite the intervention of the Saudi-led coalition, the civil war that began on March 22, 2015, continues, claiming the lives of thousands of Yemenis, causing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and further splintering an already divided nation.

  • Saeed Al-Batati is a Yemeni journalist based in the southern port city of Al-Mukalla who covers Yemen for Arab News. Twitter: @saeedalBatati


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Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm
Updated 21 min 9 sec ago

Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm

Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm
  • Turkey’s Karadeniz supplies electricity to Lebanon from power barges

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Karadeniz, which supplies electricity to Lebanon from power barges, told Beirut to halt action by the Lebanese prosecutor to seize its vessels and said it must draw up a plan to settle arrears to avoid a cut in supplies, a spokesperson said.
The spokesperson for Karpowership, a unit of Karadeniz that operates floating power plants, was speaking on Tuesday after Lebanon’s Finance Ministry cited a lawmaker saying the country had been threatened with a cut to its supplies.
A Lebanese prosecutor issued a decision last week to seize the barges and fine the firm after TV channel Al-Jadeed reported corruption allegations tied to the power contract. The firm denies the charges and says it has not been paid for 18 months.


Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

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Updated 36 min 12 sec ago

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday
  • Sweden of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217
  • The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks

STOCKHOLM: Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has registered 13,812 new coronavirus cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed on Tuesday.
The figure compared with 14,950 cases during the corresponding period last week.
The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217.
The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.
Sweden’s death rate per capita is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbors’ but lower than in most European countries that opted for lockdowns.


Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound

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Updated 41 min 7 sec ago

Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound

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  • Revenues rose almost 16 percent in April to $551million

RIYADH: Suez Canal revenues rose almost 16 percent in April to $551 million compared to a year earlier, Asharq Business reported, citing Suez Canal Authority Chairman Osama Rabie.
Rabie also discussed plans to expand and deepen the southern sector of the canal in which the container ship Ever Given was stuck in March, creating chaos across the global supply chain.
That incident which brought a large proportion of seaborne trade to a near halt for a week, highlighted the need to ensure the  smooth operation of the key trade artery.
Rabie also revealed plans for dredging works for the maintenance of the navigational channel of the canal.
A plan is being implemented to restructure the authority’s companies, he said.
This year witnessed a slight increase in the number of ships passing through the waterway to 1,840 in April 2021 from 1,731 in April 2020, Al Arabiya reported.


Renowned US authors Tayari Jones, Brent Weeks join Abu Dhabi Book Fair lineup

US author Tayari Jones is set to take part in the event. (File/ AFP)
US author Tayari Jones is set to take part in the event. (File/ AFP)
Updated 11 May 2021

Renowned US authors Tayari Jones, Brent Weeks join Abu Dhabi Book Fair lineup

US author Tayari Jones is set to take part in the event. (File/ AFP)

DUBAI: Renowned US fantasy author Brent Weeks, US author Tayari Jones, Emirati writer Eman Alyousuf and Kuwaiti writer Taleb Alrefai are all set to participate at the upcoming Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre at the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, the 30th edition of ADIBF will see the participation of more than 800 exhibitors from 46 countries around the world, and will comprise more than 104 virtual and physical sessions.

Dr. Ali bin Tamim, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, said: “Despite the challenges we have faced in the wake of the pandemic, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is committed to ramping up its efforts to support the publishing industry and to promote cross-cultural dialogue. We are proud to host this event which reinforces our position as one of the most prominent intellectual and literary forums in region, and gives us the opportunity to highlight Arab literary output while simultaneously celebrating the pioneers of arts and culture from across the world.”

As part of its cultural programme, the fair will feature the artistic and literary works of authors and artists from multiple fields. Among those will be American author Tayari Jones, considered one of the most important writers of her generation, who will hold a session to discuss her latest work. In another session, the fantasy great Weeks will talk about the importance of science fiction novels in transporting readers away from the monotony of their daily lives. Providing a regional perspective, Kuwait’s Alrefai will participate in a dialogue with Emirati writer Alyousuf, to discuss how the pandemic has encouraged reading.

British television presenter and historian Bettany Hughes will join a conversation about the impact of plagues and pandemics on civilisations, while Emirati writer Sultan Al-Amimi will speak about with the importance of short stories and their role in enhancing literary diversity. .


Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave
Updated 32 min 26 sec ago

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave
  • The size of the workforce was estimated at 29,284 million, compared to 29,965 million during the previous quarter

RIYADH: Egypt’s unemployment rate reached 7.4 percent of the total labor force in the first quarter of 2021 — up from 7.2 percent in the previous quarter.
The new data from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), reflects the impact of the second wave of the pandemic.
The size of the workforce was estimated at 29,284 million, compared to 29,965 million during the previous quarter, representing a decrease of 2.3 percent, Al Arabiya reported.
The labor force in urban areas reached 13,034 million, with 16,250 million living in rural areas.
Gehan Saleh, economic affairs adviser to Egypt’s prime minister said in April that the second stage of the country’s economic reform program would be launched soon.
She said the plan aims to improve the quality of life of citizens and tackle unemployment through job-creating investments.