Monthly briefing-February 2024

 

 

 

Political Scene

Several significant political developments have unfolded recently. The UN envoy to Yemen has reiterated the urgent need to halt the escalation in the Red Sea and bring an end to the conflict in Yemen. Concerns have also arisen over the security repercussions of American and British strikes on Houthi targets. Meanwhile, Egypt has expressed growing concerns over the decline in revenues from the Suez Canal, attributed to disruptions caused by the Houthi group’s actions in the Red Sea affecting international shipping. These tensions coincide with Saudi Arabia’s announcement of its preparedness to endorse the UN roadmap aimed at resolving the Yemeni crisis.

Peace efforts to stop the war

  • The United Nations envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, had pushed for an end to the escalation in the region, in light of the tension witnessed in the Red Sea due to Houthi attacks on international ships, and the bombing by the United States and Britain of sites in Yemen. February 7
  • The United Nations envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, visited Taiz, making it his second visit to the besieged city since his appointment to envoy in August 2021. February 12

Red Sea escalation 

  • Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry expressed his country’s concern regarding the Houthi assaults in the Red Sea, highlighting the potential escalation in the region and its effects on global maritime traffic. [The head of the Suez Canal Authority had earlier disclosed a 40% decrease in the canal’s revenues attributed to the Red Sea attacks this year, with a notable decline of 34% in the number of ships transiting the canal, accompanied by a 48% reduction in net tonnage.] February 1
  • The American envoy to Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, said: “The United States is ready to delist the Houthis from the ‘terrorist list’ if they stop their attacks on ships, and that it insists the attacks stop in the Red Sea.” February 16
  • Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan affirmed his country’s commitment to sign the UN’s roadmap, unveiled in December, regarding the Yemeni crisis, dismissing assertions that efforts to achieve a peace agreement had halted or been abandoned. February 20
  • Yemen’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, visited Moscow, marking his first such visit since assuming office at the beginning of this month. February 25
  • The American envoy to Yemen accused Iran of coordinating and supporting Houthi attacks on international maritime activities, claiming there’s solid evidence suggesting that Hezbollah members are involved in assisting and carrying out these assaults. February 29

Military Scene 

The military situation in Yemen is witnessing escalation in two directions. The first is: the United States and Britain continue with preemptive strikes on Houthi positions in response to their attacks on ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The second is: the escalation of the intensity of fighting on the internal fronts, especially in the governorates of Taiz and Ma’rib, and more and more casualties. The internal escalation coincides with the emergence of popular calls demanding the opening of roads and an end to the siege that has been ongoing for years.

Red Sea attacks

  • The Houthi group announced the funeral of 17 of its officers, as a result of the American-British airstrike on their positions in northern and western Yemen. Among those listed, there were eight leaders holding the rank of colonel and nine with the rank of major and captain. February 10

[According to Al-Masdar Online, some of the individuals listed as killed by the Houthi group had perished in Ibb Governorate due to tribal conflicts.]

  • The Houthi group launched a ballistic missile from Al-Hamza Camp in Ibb Governorate, a day after a similar missile was launched from the same camp, and a third ship was attacked off the coast of Mokha.

[The target of the second missile was not announced, but it comes in the context of the escalation of Houthi operations in the Red Sea.] February 19

    • -The “Elander” cargo ship was attacked by two missiles in the Gulf of Aden, which led to a fire on board. [The identity of the ship was not revealed, at first, and it later became clear that it was coming from Thailand, heading to Egypt, and was flying the “Palau” flag.] February 22
    • The Houthi attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea caused shipping insurance prices to rise sharply, while container shipping via the Red Sea decreased by 30%, and the cost of insurance against conflict risks increased from five to 10 times. February 23
    • The Houthi attack on the Britain-owned “Rubymar” ship on February 18, which carried 41,000 tons of fertilizer, caused severe damage and an oil leak with a length of 18 miles (29 kilometers), which could lead to disastrous ecological damage. February 24
  • The United States announced the destruction of nine anti-ship cruise missiles that were prepared for launch, plus eight drones and three drone boats, from areas controlled by the Houthi group in northern Yemen, after it targeted the American oil tanker MV Torm Dhur in the Gulf of Aden. [The outcome of three days of American-British targeting]. February 24-26
  • The United States launched 230 air strikes in Yemen, after there were Houthi attacks on ships, coinciding with the American forces intercepting ships carrying aid from Iran to the Houthis. February 28

Iranian Activity in Yemen:

A platform associated with the U.S. Naval Institute disclosed that Iran dispatched unmanned submarines to the Houthis in Yemen with the intent of employing them in attacks against ships in the Red Sea. [Photos released by U.S. Central Command depicted fragments of a captured unmanned submarine en route to the Houthis, resembling torpedoes but possessing a longer range and slower speed, rendering them effective against stationary vessels.] February 20

Security Scene:

The security services revealed the arrest of a new security cell affiliated with the Houthi group in Taiz, while the flow of migrants to Yemen continues, with the voluntary and limited return of some of them to their countries due to the difficult conditions. The Yemeni government continues its preparations to confront an environmental disaster after the resulting oil spill after Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

    • Security services in Taiz Governorate arrested a “terrorist” cell comprised of five individuals operating on behalf of the Houthi group. They admitted during interrogation to working for the group and carrying out acts of violence in the governorate. February 3
  • The International Organization for Migration said: 1,700 African migrants entered Yemen, while more than 5,000 expatriates returned during the month of January 2024, a 3% increase in the number of migrants compared to last month, and 76% of the migrants arrived in Shabwa Governorate from Somalia and Djibouti. And 282 migrants returned to their countries by boat due to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, with the number of Yemeni returnees from Saudi Arabia decreasing by 1%, and five Somali migrants were deported from Oman to Yemen. February 12
  • The director of the Military Industrialization Department at the Yemeni Ministry of Defense, Major General Hassan Saleh Farhan bin Jalal, one of the most prominent commanders of the government’s army, was found murdered in his apartment in the Egyptian capital (Cairo). Egyptian investigations later reported that the incident was criminal. February 18

International Security Activity:

  • China declared the deployment of the 46th Fleet of the People’s Liberation Army Navy to the Gulf of Aden. This move signifies an increase in military presence and equipment buildup near Yemen, prompted by the ongoing Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the region. February 22
  • The U.S. Department of Justice announced the filing of charges against four people in connection with a boat seized by the U.S. Navy, which was carrying Iranian weapons that were destined for the Houthis in Yemen. February 23
  • The Yemeni government has announced the establishment of a task force to devise an emergency strategy aimed at mitigating a potential environmental catastrophe in the aftermath of the Houthis’ attack on the vessel Rubymar within its territorial waters in the southern Red Sea region, resulting in a significant oil spill. [The new incident comes a few months after the rescue of the Safer tanker filled with oil in the Red Sea, which had been in danger for eight years.] February 24
  • Eekad Facts, an investigative journalism platform, has uncovered military development by the UAE on Yemen’s Abdul Kuri Island. These developments align with the arrival of unidentified ships and fresh supplies. Satellite images showed significant changes: a new 394-foot (120-meter) sea extension to the island’s south and the removal of two older extensions in the north, resulting in a 1.9-mile (3-kilometer) main runway capable of hosting large American military cargo aircraft. February 26

Economic Scene

  • Saudi Arabia disbursed the second installment of the Yemeni budget support grant, totaling $250 million, as part of its previous commitment of $3 billion to support the Yemeni economy. February 9
  • The Yemeni riyal witnessed a significant drop against major currencies, marking its first decline since 2021. The selling price of $1 reached 1,692 riyals, while the buying price was 1,680 riyals. And the selling price of the Saudi riyal was 445 riyals, with a buying price of 442 riyals. February 27

Humanitarian Scene 

  • According to a report by the International Organization for Migration, 1,530 Yemeni families have been forced to flee their homes since the beginning of 2024 due to the ongoing conflict in the country. These families cited concerns over safety and security, as well as economic hardships, as the main reasons for their displacement. February 4.
  • The “Masam” project removed 4,245 mines, shells and explosive devices from Yemen during January 2024, bringing the total removed since the launch of the project in 2018 to 431,054, while the cleared area reached about 13M square feet (1.2M square meters), bringing the total area cleared to about 582,000 square feet (54,081 square meters) since the start of the project. February 6.
  • The Houthi group kidnapped over 70 individuals, including women and children, southeast of Ibb City. This action followed the death of Houthi leader Ghamdan Zabin Allah Jumaida and some of his companions in clashes with the “Beit Al-Tawil” family. The group sieged the village, cutting off its water supply for days, and assaulted the locals by blowing up and looting their homes. February 10
  • Human Rights Watch reported that the Houthis have recruited thousands of children into their forces since October 7, 2023, enticing them with rhetoric about liberating Palestine, and subsequently deploying them to the front lines of conflict. February 13
  • A human rights report by the “De Yemen Organization for Rights and Development” documented 481 violations committed by the Houthi group in Sana’a over the past year. These violations include killings, injuries and assaults on civilians and lawyers, as well as instances of torture, arrests, property looting and the recruitment of children. These actions expose the population to increasing dangers. February 27
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