Growing Conflict and War Crimes in Yemen

WST Reporter

In early 2015, a rebel group known as the Houthis took over a large part of Yemen and ousted the interim president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

In response, a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia has carried out an aggressive intervention marked by largely indiscriminate air attacks aimed at retaking territory captured by the Houthi and restoring President Hadi.

Today the conflict is marked by a complex mix of domestic, regional, and international alliances, with the United States supporting the Saudi-led coalition and former Saleh allies and Iran believed to be supporting the Houthis.

The result has been a humanitarian catastrophe and more than 5,700 deaths, including at least 2,500 civilians mostly killed in air strikes.

In September of 2014, a long standing Houthi insurgency, known as Ansar Allah, captured the capital and forced the resignation of the Prime Minister. As the political crisis intensified, the President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and his ministers resigned and Parliament was dissolved. The Houthi insurgency declared itself to be in control of the country on February 6, 2015.

The former President has declared his resignation to be invalid and established a provisional government which has been driven into exile in Saudi Arabia. By the end of March 2015, a coalition of Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the United States began an aggressive campaign, known as Operation Decisive Storm, aimed at restoring the Hadi government.

What began as a Saudi-air campaign has gradually evolved into a conventional conflict involving thousands of ground troops. The Saudi led coalition has retaken much of Southern Yemen through indiscriminate bombing campaigns that have propelled Yemen to what experts describe as “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis”.

The Houthis and their allies are responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths, but the UN estimates that the majority of civilian deaths have been a result of the Saudi-led coalition’s aerial bombing. Both the UN and human rights groups have discussed the possibility that the Saudi offensive constitutes war crimes.

While the Saudi government affirmed in a joint statement with U.S. officials that it would work to allow “unfettered access” to humanitarian assistance, the coalition blockade of Yemen’s ports has prevented food and fuel aid exacerbating the growing humanitarian crisis which has left 80% of the country in need of humanitarian aid.