Yemen Update: 24 April - 30 April
- PVI agents report no change to port closures. Aden oil terminal, Hodeidah, Mokha and Saleef remain operational
- Vessel Tracker data indicates that seven tankers are currently in Yemeni waters
- Houthi rebels have gained control of the area near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait but no disruption to maritime traffic has been reported
- Intense fighting has persisted across Yemen and there has been no significant momentum toward a resolution of the conflict
Maritime & Ports Impact - yemen conflict
PVI agents report no change in the situation at Yemen's ports over the past seven days. Aden port remains closed and the Aden oil terminal is open. Balhaf, Malla and Ras Isa are closed while Hodeidah, Mokha and Saleef have remained operational. The situation surrounding Mukalla port remains unclear. Media reports indicate that the city is under the control of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants, however PVI's agents have reported that the port remains open. According to some local media reports vessels are en route to Mukalla port and unconfirmed press and social media reports indicate an oil tanker safely visited port in the past week.
Vessel Tracker information indicates that seven tankers are currently located in Yemen’s territorial waters, including three waiting to enter Aden, one waiting to enter Hodeidah and one waiting to enter Mokha. Coalition requirements that all vessels be searched and receive clearance prior to entering Yemeni ports have continued to cause delays, with the UN reporting on 27 April that an oil tanker had been waiting since 21 April to receive clearance to enter port. Prolonged delays, uncertain procedures and security concerns have seen many vessel operators withdraw from the country altogether.
Pro-Houthi forces reportedly gained control of an area west of Aden leading to the Bab el-Mandeb strait on 26 April. Further details about the development were not disclosed, though no disruption or threat to shipping traffic was reported as a result of the advance by pro-Houthi forces in the strategic area. Previous operations by Houthi rebels near the Bab el-Mandeb strait have prompted coalition air strikes and any activity by pro-Houthi forces in the area merits attention given the potential for shipping to be affected.
Iran's seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged container vessel, the Maersk Tigris, on 28 April comes amid heightened tensions between Tehran and rival regional powers over the conflict in Yemen. Iranian vessels fired a shot across the bow of the vessel and forced it and the 24 crew members on board to Iran’s Bandar Abbas port. The vessel had reportedly been transiting the Strait of Hormuz, in position 27°02N – 056°16.27E, along an international shipping lane en route to Jebel Ali when the incident occurred. Officials in Tehran have said the seizure was a civil matter related to a complaint from an Iranian company but the situation nonetheless generated concern about freedom of movement in the region.
Intense fighting persisted across Aden during the reporting period with small arms fire and artillery attacks as well as air strikes reported across multiple areas of the city, including near the Aden port. There are reports that anti-Houthi forces have made notable gains in fighting over the last week and that Houthi rebels and allied military units have increasingly seen their supplies lines cut off. However there is no clear indication of a decisive change in the momentum of the conflict. Pro-Houthi forces have also begun enforcing an economic blockade in the northern areas of Aden they control.
Wider yemen Conflict
Saudi-led forces have continued intense air strikes against rival Houthi forces despite announcing on 21 April that military operations would be curtailed in favour of a greater focus on a political solution to the conflict. There has been no discernible progress toward ending the fighting and the humanitarian situation continues to worsen with Yemen’s exiled government declaring Aden, Taiz and Dalea to be disaster zones on 27 April. Reports that coalition forces had begun training and deploying anti-Houthi tribal forces in the Marib region is an indication of further escalation of the conflict against entrenched Houthi forces who have failed to be dislodged by weeks of air strikes.
On 25 April an affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) known as Wilyat Sana’a released a video officially announcing its presence in Yemen and declaring its intention to target Shi’a Houthi rebels. The message, which follows territorial gains by AQAP militants in the east and earlier claimed attacks by IS militants against Shi’a interests, is further indication of the extent to which the political upheaval in Yemen has enabled militant groups to expand their influence in the country. Saudi-led forces had said a key focus of the new phase of their military operation in Yemen would be counter-terrorism but to date no details about this mission have been disclosed. Continued advances by militants are likely to increase pressure on the coalition but it is unclear how they will respond as their focus remains primarily on reversing Houthi gains.
Selection of incidents in Yemen from the PGI Risk Portal
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Saudi-led forces continue air strikes in Aden
Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition continued to target Houthi rebel positions across Yemen. Strikes targeted Houthi rebels in Aden’s Khor Maksar and Dar Saad districts, enabling anti-Houthi forces to advance in parts of the contested city. Local officials in Aden reported that eight people were killed and 44 others were wounded in overnight clashes between rival anti- and pro-Houthi forces in the southern city. Saudi-led air strikes also targeted Houthi forces in the southern provinces of Lahj and Abyan, though no casualty figures or damage assessments were disclosed.
Saudi-led forces train anti-Houthi tribesmen
Military forces from the Saudi-led coalition have reportedly trained tribesmen to fight Houthi forces in Yemen. Some three hundred tribal fighters trained in Saudi Arabia were deployed several days ago in their home area in the Sirwah district of Marib, where they have reportedly made gains in ongoing fighting against Houthi forces. Coalition warplanes have targeted pro-Houthi forces with air strikes and supplied arms to rival rebel forces but the Saudi-led intervention has so far failed to reverse Houthi gains.
Fighting leaves at least 12 civilians dead in Aden
According to officials, the Shi’a rebels shelled government buildings and residential buildings controlled by southern militia in the Khor Maksar district of Aden, killing at least 12 civilians. According to local sources, the Houthi rebel group prevented residents from the neighbourhood from extinguishing fires across the area and some snipers were targeting civilians. Residents reported that Saudi-led coalition air strikes targeted Houthi positions in the suburbs of the city. There has been fierce fighting in Aden in recent days as the Houthi rebels attempt to take control of the strategically important port city from the southern resistance militias loyal to the Riyadh-based President Hadi.
Clashes between Houthis, tribal militia leave 15 dead in Marib
According to tribal sources, fighting between tribesmen allied to Riyadh-based President Hadi and advancing Houthi rebels left 15 people dead in the district of Sirwah and Marib City. Houthi rebels, backed by forces affiliated with the former President Saleh, have attempted to take control of key areas from southern resistance militias and forces affiliated with President Hadi despite ongoing Saudi-led coalition air strikes.
Gunfight along border leaves soldier dead
Saudi officials reported that a gunfight between security forces and Houthi rebels erupted along the Saudi-Yemen border and left one Saudi soldier dead. The exact location of the incident was not been confirmed. The Saudi-led coalition has been engaged in air strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen since March.
Naval blockade continues to prevent ships from reaching ports
Reuters reported that at least 10 ships were waiting to discharge cargo at Yemeni ports, including al-Saleef and Hodeidah, but were prevented by delays related to naval blockade of Yemen by a Saudi-led military coalition. The vessels were waiting outside Yemeni territorial waters. Coalition forces have required that all ships be searched before calling at Yemeni ports. The UN reported that a commercial oil tanker has been waiting since 21 April to receive clearance to enter Yemeni waters. A number of vessel operators and shipping lines have reduced their operations in Yemen or pulled out of the country altogether in response to worsening violence.
Government declares Aden, Taiz, Dalea disaster zones as fighting continues
Yemen's exiled government declared Aden, Taiz and Dalea to be disaster zones and warned that these cities had run out of fuel, medical supplies and food. Electricity and water supplies were also scarce or unavailable in these cities. Pro-Houthi forces have reportedly blocked deliveries of food and supplies to Aden and other contested cities. A maritime blockade enforced by the Saudi-led military coalition has also disrupted the delivery of food and fuel. Authorities warned of the collapse of physical and telecommunications infrastructure across Yemen and a worsening humanitarian crisis due to the violence.
Intense air strikes continue to target Houthi positions
Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition carried out as many as 20 sorties against Houthi positions in Dalea and nearby Qataba, setting off large explosions that persisted for more than two hours. Air strikes also targeted school used as bases by Houthi rebels in Ataq and Houthi positions on the outskirts of Loder, where clashes were reported between pro- and anti-Houthi ground forces. At least 12 Houthi rebels were killed in the attacks. Saudi-led forces continued an intense campaign of air strikes despite announcing they were working through both military and political means to return Yemen’s legitimate government to power.
Saudi-led forces target Houthi positions in multiple cities
Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against pro-Houthi forces across a number of cities and locations in Yemen. Air strikes targeted a military base near Sana’a and makeshift weapons depots near the presidential palace in the capital. Houthi positions in Dhamar, Marib, Aden, Shabwa, Hajjah, Sa'dah, Ibb and Lahij were also targeted. Coalition forces have continued to carry out frequent attacks on Houthi rebels and allied military units despite announcing on 22 April that military operations against pro-Houthi forces would be curtailed as the focus shifted to reaching a political solution to the conflict.
Pro-Houthi forces capture area near Bab el-Mandeb
According to military officials Houthi rebels backed by soldiers loyal to ex-president Ali Abudllah Saleh seized control of an area west of Aden leading to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Further details about the development were not disclosed, though no disruption or threat to shipping traffic was reported as a result of the advance by pro-Houthi forces in the strategic area.
Heavy fighting, air strikes occur in Aden
Intense fighting between pro- and anti-Houthi forces was reported in Aden, with Saudi-led warplanes and naval forces targeting Houthi rebel positions near the main commercial port and dockyard. Air strikes also targeted Houthi forces who were battling rival local militia units near Aden airport. Houthi rebels backed by forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh responded to the attacks with barrages of tank and Katyusha rocket fire. Casualty figures were not disclosed. Weeks of air strikes by Saudi-led forces have failed to dislodge pro-Houthi forces from Aden.
Anti-Houthi forces retake parts of Taiz
A coalition of tribal and Islamist fighters captured several districts in the city of Taiz from rival pro-Houthi forces. The heaviest fighting was reported in downtown Taiz, where around 20 civilians were killed and tens of others were wounded as a result of indiscriminate mortar attacks. Intense tank, artillery and machine gun fire were also reported in the city.
Islamic State claims to enter Yemen
The Islamic State (IS) declared an official presence in Yemen, saying its forces would begin to target Shi’a Houthi fighters. The declaration was made in a video posted online, displaying tens of IS fighter in full military gear conducting training exercises in a desert area allegedly near the Yemeni capital of Sana’a.
Coalition forces carry out air strike on Mokha military base
According to Yemen Akhbar, witnesses said that Saudi-led coalition air forces carried out air strikes on Houthi rebel positions at the 35 brigade military base in Mokha near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Initial reports indicated the air strikes killed five rebel fighters and injured more than 10 others. The Houthi rebel group reportedly took control of the base two months prior as it swept southward during a major advance.
Houthi fighters impose economic blockade on Aden
According to Yemen Times, Houthi militants and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have begun forcing an economic blockade on the city, preventing the entry of food and other supplies from nearby provinces. Houthi rebels continue to control large areas of the city despite a growing military campaign, with areas of control based in Al Ribat, the Green City and parts of the road connecting Crater and Khor Maksar.