Houthis Take Over Capital; President Hadi Resigns
- Yemen Main Page
- New Nation Falls into Civil War
- Militants Strike in Yemen
- Regional Violence and the Strengthening of al-Qaeda Make Yemen a Volatile State
- Cease-Fire Tentatively Ends Six-Year War
- Protests Push President Saleh to Announce He Will Not Run for Reelection
- American-born al-Qaeda Leader Killed by U.S. Drone
- Saleh Cedes Power and Is Given Immunity
- Officials Say They Thwarted an al-Qaeda Terrorist Attack
- Houthis Take Over Capital; President Hadi Resigns
- Yemen-Based Al Qaeda Cell Linked to France Attack; High-Ranking Al-Qaeda Leader Reportedly Killed
- The Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Mosque Attacks as Violence Escalates in Yemen
Houthis Take Over Capital; President Hadi Resigns
The Houthis took advantage of the instability in Yemen, and in early July 2014 took control of Amran, a city 45 miles north of the capital, Sana. In August, Houthi leaders demanded that Hadi rescind his decision to end subsidies that helped the poor. The move helped the Houthis to gain wide support, from both Shia and Sunnis, and by early September the Houthis had entered the capital and set up camp there. On Sept. 2, Hadi agreed to form a new government, with the Houthis nominating the prime minister. Hadi also announced a 30% reduction in the price of fuel. The Houthis, however, rejected the concessions as inadequate. Fighting broke out between the rebels and security forces in Sana days later and continued until the Houthis took control of Sana, a stunning accomplishment for the rebels and an equally significant blow for Hadi. The UN brokered a peace deal between the Houthis and the government on September 20. The next day, Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa announced his resignation. As part of the deal the Houthis agreed to withdraw from Sana, and Hadi said he would reinstate the fuel subsidy, establish a "technocratic national government," work to rout out corruption, allow the Houthis to select presidential advisers and have more representation in parliament, and implement the provisions of the National Dialogue Conference. The Houthis, however, refused to sign a "security appendix," which called for the rebels to withdraw from Sana and other cities and surrender their weapons. In October, Khaled Bahah, Yemen's former ambassador to the UN, was named prime minister. The Houthis rejected Hadi's first choice.
The rebels did not withdraw from Sana and instead expanded their control of the capital, diminishing the power of the government. Amid the growing instability, both the Houthis and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) gained strength. AQAP considers the Houthis heretics because they adhere to a branch of Shiite Islam, Zaydism. In response to the Houthi's gains throughout Yemen, AQAP began attacking Houthis throughout the country, taking many civilian casualties. The intensifying violence led many to fear a sectarian war. Yemeni officials believe Iran is backing the Houthis, and Saudi Arabia, Iran's rival, has taken action against the Houthis.
Fighting in Sana between Houthi rebels and government troops intensified in January 2015. The escalation followed the release of a draft constitution that called for Yemen to become a federation of six regions, a concept that emerged from the National Dialogue Conference and one that the Houthis oppose. The Houthis surrounded the presidential palace complex, with Hadi inside, and took his chief of staff hostage. On Jan. 21, the Houthis and the government signed a cease-fire, in which the Houthis agreed to withdraw from the presidential palace and the government said it would abandon the regional plan and give the Houthis more say in the naming of government officials. The Houthis, however, reneged on the deal, and Hadi and Bahah were placed under house arrest. On Jan. 22, Hadi and his cabinet resigned, citing the Houthi's failure to abide by the cease-fire. However, the Houthis said in a statement that parliament must approve Hadi's resignation before it can take effect. The statement hinted at the Houthi's reluctance to assume control over the country since it does not have support of the Sunni majority in the south. Many feared that AQAP would take advantage of the political vaccuum. In early February, the Houthis dissolved Parliament and said it would be replaced with a national council that would then form a committee to name a new president. In response to the turmoil, Saudi Arabia withheld aid to Yemen because of the Houthis' ties to Iran. In an attempt to form a compromise government, the UN brokered talks between the Houthis and rival political parties. However, the negotiations quickly broke down.
The UN-mediated talks resumed, and in late February the Houthis agreed that Parliament would remain in place but a new "people’s transitional council" would be established and serve as an upper house of Parliament. The council would include not only Houthis but also representatives from other groups that have complained of being under-represented in Parliament. The two chambers will work together during the transition to a new government. Following this development, President Hadi escaped from house arrest and traveled to Aden. He met with governors from southern regions, who voiced support for his return to power, and began amassing forces loyal to him. On Feb. 21 Hadi said he was still in power, implying that he had withdrawn his resignation.
Troops loyal to Hadi and those allied with the Houthis and former president Saleh, Hadi's rival, battled for control of the international airport in the southern port city of Aden in March 2015. After pitched battles, Hadi's forces retook the airport and seized a Special Security Force base, which was controlled by Saleh. Hadi's presidential compound was hit by warplanes believed to be under the command of either Saleh or the Houthis. The Houthis retreated and called for talks and an end to the fighting. However, the Houthis then took control of Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city. They started sending weapons and troops to Taiz, signalling plans to continue the fight against Hadi and his forces. Taiz is about 120 miles from Aden.
In an attempt to stop the Houthi advance and to return President Hadi to power, Saudi Arabia led a coalition of Arab states in an offensive on Houthi targets in Yemen in late March 2015. More than 100 Saudi jets were involved in the airstrikes. A Saudi-led airstrike hit a camp for displaced civilians on March 30, killing as many as 40 people. The Houthis fought back, and the UN warned that Yemen is "on the verge of total collapse." The operation, called Decisive Storm, continued well into April but failed to stop the Houthis' advance. The fighting claimed hundreds of civilian lives, displaced as many as 150,000, and destroyed neighborhoods. An embargo of food and medicine, which the Saudis enforced, created a humanitarian crisis. On April 21, Saudi Arabia said the campaign, having achieved its goals, was over and the country would focus on a political solution. However, the main goals of the operation, to return President Hadi to office and rout the Houthis, were not achieved. Saudi Arabia resumed airstrikes the next day. The U.S. increased the number of ships deployed off the coast of Yemen to prevent Iran from arming the Houthis. The move was a thinly veiled warning to Iran to curtail illegally arming the rebels.
Saudi Arabia brokered a five-day humanitarian truce in May to allow for the delivery of fuel, medicine, and food to Yemenis stranded in areas of conflict and also to allow aid workers access to those civilians. The boming resumed once the truce ended.
Saudi Arabia and other nations have accused Iran of arming the Houthis. The involvement of Saudi Arabia in the dispute runs the risk of inflaming tension or creating a broader conflict in the Middle East.