Saudi Arabian–led intervention in Yemen

Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen
Part of the Yemeni Civil War and the Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict
Air strike in Sana'a 11-5-2015.jpg
An airstrike in Sana'a on 11 May 2015
Yemeni Civil War.svg
The military situation in Yemen on 1 May 2018.
(Note that Houthi forces also control border areas in Saudi Arabia not shown on the map.)
  Controlled by the Revolutionary Committee
  Controlled by the Hadi-led government and allies
  Controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)
  Controlled by local, non-aligned forces
(See also a detailed map)
Date26 March 2015 – ongoing
(3 years, 9 months, 2 weeks and 6 days)
  • Operation Decisive Storm
    26 March – 21 April 2015
    (3 weeks and 6 days)
  • Operation Restoring Hope
    22 April 2015 – present
    (3 years, 8 months, 3 weeks and 3 days)

Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia[1]
United Arab Emirates UAE[2]
 Qatar (until 2017)[2]
 Senegal[4] (soldiers not yet deployed in 2016)[5]

Supported by:
 United States[6][7][8]

 United Kingdom (training, intelligence, logistical support, weapons, and blockade)[13][14][15][16]
 Australia (weapons sales, joint-naval exercises)[17][18]
 Canada (weapons sales)[19]
ShababFlag.svg Al-Qaeda[20][21][22] (denied by Pentagon)[23]
 Spain (weapons sales)[24]
 Brazil (weapons sales)[27][28]
 Finland (weapons sales)[29]
 Bosnia and Herzegovina[30][31]
 Germany (weapons sales until 2018)[36][37][38][39]

In support of:
Yemen Yemen
(Hadi government)

Non-state co-belligerents:

(Revolutionary Committee/Supreme Political Council)

Alleged support:
 Iran (weapons)[45]
 Hezbollah (weapons)[46]
 Qatar (financial, intelligence, and media support)[47]
 North Korea (military; per South Korea's intelligence)[48][49][50]
Commanders and leaders

Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud
Saudi Arabia Lt. Gen. Fahd bin Turki bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Saudi ArabiaLt. Gen. Muhammad Al Shaalan [51][52]
Saudi Arabia Maj. Gen. Abdulrahman bin Saad al-Shahrani [53]
Saudi Arabia Brig. Gen. Ahmad Asiri
Saudi Arabia Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Hamzi [54]
Saudi Arabia Col. Abdullah al-Sahian [55]
Saudi Arabia Col. Hassan Ghasoum Ageeli [56]
Saudi Arabia Lt. Col. Abdullah al-Balwi [57]
United Arab Emirates Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
United Arab Emirates Col. Mohammed Ali al-Kitbi [55]
United Arab Emirates Cmdr. Mike Hindmarsh[58]
Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
Bahrain Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa (WIA)[59]
Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (until 2017)
Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
Sudan Omar al-Bashir
Jordan Abdullah II
Morocco Mohamed VI
Senegal Macky Sall

Yemen Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi
Yemen Mahmoud al-Subaihi (POW)
Yemen Gen. Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar[60]
Yemen Ahmed Ali Saleh (from 2017)[61][62]
Yemen Gen. Abd Rabbo Hussein [63]
Yemen Gen. Ahmad Seif Al-Yafei  [64]
Yemen Maj. Gen. Mohammad Saleh Al-Tammah [65]
Yemen Maj. Gen. Abdul-Rab al-Shadadi [66]
Yemen Brig. Gen. Hameed al-Qushaibi [67]
Yemen Cmdr. Jarallah Salhi [68]
Yemen Capt. Zafir Mansour Ahmed Al-Turki [69]

Yemen Mohammed Ali al-Houthi
Yemen Mahdi al-Mashat (from 2018)Yemen Saleh Ali al-Sammad  
Yemen Hussein Khairan (until 2016)
Yemen Mohamed al-Atafi (from 2016)
Yemen Sharaf Luqman[70]
Yemen Ali Al-Jaifi [71]
Yemen Hussein al-Ezzi

Yemen Abdul Razzaq Al-Marwani
Yemen Abu Ali al-Hakim
Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh (until 2017)
Yemen Ali Raymi 
Abdul-Malik al-Houthi
Ibrahim Badr Al-Houthi [72]
Abdullah Qayed al-Fadeea [73]
Maj. Gen. Hasan Abdullah Almalsi [74]

Saudi Arabia 100 warplanes and 150,000 troops[75]
United Arab Emirates 30 warplanes[76]
Sudan 4 warplanes and 6,000 troops[77]
Bahrain 15 warplanes[78] 300 troops[79]
Kuwait 15 warplanes[78]
Qatar 10 warplanes, 1,000 troops[78][80] (until 2017)
Egypt 4 warships[81] and warplanes[82]
Jordan 6 warplanes[78]
Morocco 6 warplanes, 1,500 troops[78][83]
Senegal 2,100 troops[4] (soldiers not yet deployed in 2016)[5]

Academi: 1,800 security contractors[84]

150,000–200,000 fighters[85]

Casualties and losses

Saudi Arabia 1,000[86]–3,000[87] soldiers killed
10 captured;[88][89]
3 aircraft lost;[90][91][92]
9 helicopters lost[93][94][95][96][97][98]
20 M1A2S lost[99]
1 frigate damaged[100]
United Arab Emirates 200 soldiers killed[101]
3 aircraft lost[102][103]
3 helicopters lost[104][105]
1 watercraft damaged (HSV-2 Swift)[106]
Sudan 1,000 soldiers killed[107]
Bahrain 8 soldiers killed[108]
1 F-16 crashed[109]
Qatar 4 soldiers killed[110]
Morocco 1 soldier killed[111]
1 F-16 shot down[112][111]
Jordan 1 F-16 lost[113]
Academi: 15 PMCs killed[114][115]

Yemen Unknown

Thousands killed (Aljazeera; as of May 2018)[86]

11,000+ killed (Arab Coalition claim; as of Dec. 2017)[116]

12,907 Yemeni civilians killed (1,980 women and 2,768 children; per the LCRD)[117]
500+ Saudi civilians killed on the Saudi-Yemen border[118][119]
57,538–80,000 killed overall in the Yemeni Civil War (per ACLED)[120]

A military intervention was launched by Saudi Arabia in 2015, leading a coalition of nine African and Middle East countries, in response to calls from the internationally recognized pro-Saudi[121] president of Yemen Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi for military support after he was ousted by the Houthi movement due to economic and political grievances, and fled to Saudi Arabia.[122][123] Code-named Operation Decisive Storm (Arabic: عملية عاصفة الحزم'Amaliyyat 'Āṣifat al-Ḥazm), the intervention is said to be in compliance with Article 2(4) of the UN Charter by the international community;[124] however, this has been contested by some academics.[125][126] The intervention initially consisted of a bombing campaign on Houthi rebels and later saw a naval blockade and the deployment of ground forces into Yemen.[127][78][128][129] The Saudi-led coalition has attacked the positions of the Houthi militia, and loyalists of the former President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, allegedly supported by Iran (see Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict).[122][123] The Houthis who had pressured Mansur Hadi for reforms, say that they took power through a popular revolt and are defending Yemen from a western backed invasion.[130] The Saudi-led bombings soon expanded to most of Western Yemen including civilian targets and was followed by UAE-led deployment of ground forces in the South.

Fighter jets and ground forces from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Academi (formerly Blackwater) took part in the operation. Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia, made their airspace, territorial waters and military bases available to the coalition.[131] The United States provided intelligence and logistical support, including aerial refueling and search-and-rescue for downed coalition pilots.[6][132] It also accelerated the sale of weapons to coalition states.[133] The US and Britain have deployed their military personnel in the command and control centre responsible for Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen, having access to lists of targets.[134][135][136] Pakistan was called on by Saudi Arabia to join the coalition, but its parliament voted to maintain neutrality.[137] On 21 April 2015, the Saudi-led military coalition announced an end to Operation Decisive Storm, saying the intervention's focus would "shift from military operations to the political process".[138][139][140] Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners announced the launch of a political and peace efforts, which they called Operation Restoring Hope (Arabic: عملية إعادة الأمل'Amaliyyat 'I'ādat al-'Amal). However, the coalition did not rule out using force, saying it would respond to threats and prevent Houthi militants from operating within Yemen.[140] Qatar was suspended from the coalition due to the 2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis.[141]

The war has received widespread criticism and had a dramatic worsening effect on Yemen's humanitarian situation, that reached the level of a "humanitarian disaster"[16] or "humanitarian catastrophe".[142][143][144] After the Saudi-led coalition declared the entire Saada Governorate a military target, the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen and Human Rights Watch said that air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition on Saada city in Yemen were in breach of international law.[145][146] On 1 July 2015 UN declared for Yemen a "level-three" emergency—the highest UN emergency level—for a period of six months.[147][148] Human rights groups repeatedly blamed the Saudi-led military coalition for killing civilians and destroying health centers and other infrastructure with airstrikes.[149] The de facto blockade left 78% (20 million) of the Yemeni population in urgent need of food, water and medical aid. Aid ships are allowed, but the bulk of commercial shipping, on which the country relies, is blocked.[16] In one incident, coalition jets prevented an Iranian Red Crescent plane from landing by bombing Sana'a International Airport's runway, which blocked aid delivery by air.[150] As of 10 December 2015, more than 2,500,000 people had been internally displaced by the fighting.[151] Many countries evacuated more than 23,000 foreign citizens from Yemen.[152][153][154] More than 1,000,000 people fled Yemen for Saudi Arabia,[155] Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Oman.[154][156] The war has caused a humanitarian crisis, including a famine which has threatened 13 million people,[157] as well as an outbreak of cholera which has infected an estimated 1.2 million.[158] In November 2018, UNICEF described Yemen as "a living hell for children" saying that every 10 minutes a child is dying due to preventable diseases as a result of the war.[159] More than 85,000 children under age 5 may have died of starvation.[160]


Saudi-backed Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, running unopposed as the only candidate for president, won the 2012 Yemeni elections.[161] Since August 2014, the Houthis (or Ansar Allah), a Zaidi Shia movement and militant group thought to be backed by Iran, dissatisfied with Hadi government's decisions and the new constitution, arranged mass protests which culminated into their takeover of the Yemeni government in 2015, declaring victory of the revolution and drafting a new constitution when Hadi's provisional government had already expired its term. Saudi Arabia and other countries denounced this as an unconstitutional coup d'état.[162]

In military operations on the ground, the Houthis were supported by sections of the Yemeni armed forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was removed from power as part of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.[163][164] Houthi leaders claimed[165] that Saudi Arabia was trying to break the alliance between the Houthis and Saleh's supporters; reports[165] claimed that Saleh's son Ahmed Ali Saleh had traveled to the Saudi capital to attempt to broker a deal to end the airstrikes. Saudi media claim that Saleh or his son had approached Riyadh seeking such a deal.[166]

By September 2014, Houthi fighters captured Sana'a, toppling Hadi's government. Soon after, a peace deal (known as the Peace and Partnership Agreement) was concluded between the Hadi government and the Houthis, but was not honored by either party. The deal was drafted with the intent of defining a power-sharing government. A conflict over a draft constitution resulted in the Houthis consolidating control over the Yemeni capital in January 2015. After resigning from his post alongside his prime minister and remaining under virtual house arrest for one month, Hadi fled to Aden in southern Yemen in February.[167][168] Upon arriving in Aden, Hadi withdrew his resignation, saying that the actions of the Houthis from September 2014 had amounted to a "coup" against him.[169][170][171] By 25 March, forces answering to Sana'a were rapidly closing in on Aden, which Hadi had declared to be Yemen's temporary capital.[172]

During the Houthis' southern offensive, Saudi Arabia began a military buildup on its border with Yemen.[173] In response, a Houthi commander boasted that his troops would counterattack against any Saudi aggression and would not stop until they had taken Riyadh, the Saudi capital.[174]

On 25 March, Hadi called on the UN Security Council to authorise "willing countries that wish to help Yemen to provide immediate support for the legitimate authority by all means and measures to protect Yemen and deter the Houthi aggression".[175]

Yemen's foreign minister, Riad Yassin, requested military assistance from the Arab League on 25 March, amid reports that Hadi had fled his provisional capital.[176][177] On 26 March, Saudi state TV station Al-Ekhbariya TV reported that Hadi arrived at a Riyadh airbase and was met by Saudi Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud. His route from Aden to Riyadh was not immediately known.[122]

At a summit of the Arab League held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on 28–29 March, President Hadi again repeated his calls for international intervention in the fighting. A number of League members pledged their support to Hadi's government during that meeting.[178][179]

Many ancient cultural heritage sites in Yemen have been destroyed and damaged by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes including some as old as 3,000 years.[180][181][182][183][184][185]

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