Saudi-backed Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, running unopposed as the only candidate for president, won the 2012 Yemeni elections. 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.
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. Houthi leaders claimed that Saudi Arabia was trying to break the alliance between the Houthis and Saleh's supporters; reports 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.
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. 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. By 25 March, forces answering to Sana'a were rapidly closing in on Aden, which Hadi had declared to be Yemen's temporary capital.
During the Houthis' southern offensive, Saudi Arabia began a military buildup on its border with Yemen. 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.
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".
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. 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.
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.
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.