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Military & Security Eid Lull in Fighting as Govt Seeks to Unify Forces

اقرأ المحتوى باللغة العربية

Govt Announces Joint Operations Room

On April 27, Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) President Rashad al-Alimi established a Joint Operations Authority under the Minister of Defense. Tasked with coordinating the operations of the armed forces and the various anti-Houthi factions, the authority will be led by Major General Aleh Ali Talib, currently Chief of Operations of the Southern Armed Forces, with Major General Youssef Ali al-Sharaji as his deputy.

The idea to unify anti-Houthi factions under a single military command was first floated as part of the 2019 Riyadh Agreement and picked up again during the Riyadh consultations in 2022. The impetus seems to be uniting the ranks in case talks fail and a new round of fighting begins, but after nine years of war, and with factionalism rife, the chances of creating an effective joint command remain limited.

Fighting continues in Marib

After taking territory in southern Marib in March, Houthi forces launched daily, coordinated military attacks on several fronts between April 3 and 9, according to pro-government security, tribal, and media sources. Active frontlines included the eastern Balaq mountain range, Umm al-Reesh, and the nearby Al-Akd area on the southern outskirts of Marib city, and on the Mala’a front to the west of Harib city.

Following a lull in fighting in mid-April, coinciding with the prisoner exchange and the Eid al-Fitr holiday, fighting resumed in Harib on April 20, when Houthi forces attacked units of the UAE-backed Saba Axis of the Giants Brigades in the Bawara Arak area, according to a local tribesman and a member of the Saba Axis. Houthi shelling also targeted villages in Harib’s Al-Aqil area on April 21, damaging a prayer hall, but no casualties were reported.

Fighting also occurred west of Marib city on April 11 along the Kasara and Raghwan fronts. On April 21, Houthi forces blew up three homes in the Al-Zour area in the east of Serwah district. Local residents have been displaced from the area and only Houthi fighters are allowed to enter, according to a community activist and former resident. Since the beginning of the year, at least 17 homes have been blown up in Al-Zour by Houthi forces.

In neighboring Al-Jawf governorate, on April 27, five Houthi fighters raided a camp of the pro-government 7th Border Guard Brigade outside a five-kilometer buffer zone established along the Saudi-Yemeni border. Both sides suffered casualties and three Houthi fighters were captured. The Saudi-led coalition established the buffer zone and assigned the 7th Border Guard Brigade to protect its perimeter in 2020, following Houthi raids on Saudi border patrols and the planting of landmines along the border.

Ongoing Insecurity in Abyan

In Abyan, numerous security incidents were recorded in the Omayran Valley in Mudiya district, a former Al-Qaeda stronghold that pro-STC forces moved into during Operation Arrows of the East, a counterterrorism campaign launched in August 2022. On April 1, three soldiers from the STC-affiliated 5th Support and Backup Brigade were killed in a roadside bomb likely planted by Al-Qaeda militants. On April 18, sources from the STC-affiliated Security Belt forces reported the killing of Musab al-Jaadani, one of the most prominent Al-Qaeda leaders in the region and confidant of Abu al-Hayja al-Hadidi, emir of Al-Qaeda in Abyan and Shabwa. On April 27, the commander of the 3rd Battalion of the Abyan Delta Security Belt forces, Fawzi Shaif al-Bakri, was killed and two of his comrades were injured after an explosive device detonated in the village of Al-Baqira, according to a Security Belt-affiliated source.

Abyan also witnessed infighting among STC-affiliated forces over jurisdiction. On April 3, Security Belt forces commander Captain Saddam Hussein al-Salihi was killed by Abu Ali al-Shabwani, a member of the 5th Support and Backup Brigade. Al-Salihi tribal gunmen joined the clashes, during which two people were killed and 16 wounded before senior commanders negotiated an end to the fighting in exchange for the handing over of Al-Shabwani. On April 18, tribal sheikhs and leaders of the Security Belt forces’ Central Region issued a joint statement requesting Al-Shabwani’s prosecution. According to a Southern Resistance-affiliated military source, the statement also requested the withdrawal of all forces associated with Brigadier General Mukhtar al-Nubi, who commands the Abyan Military Axis, and their replacement with other STC-affiliated forces.

Frontline Clashes in Other Governorates

In southern Hudaydah, irregular clashes continued between Houthi forces and Joint Forces soldiers on several frontlines. On April 5 and 8, fighting broke out in the Al-Sard area in the north of Hays district, according to military sources on both sides. On April 9, Houthi forces fired mortar shells at Joint Forces extending fortifications along the southern border of Al-Shaaniyah Hill in the Rubaa al-Mahel district, southeast of Hays city, according to a military source from the Joint Forces. Houthi forces also targeted fortifications in the north of the Al-Haymah area, southwest of Al-Tuhaytah city in southern Hudaydah. Houthi drones were seen flying over the new fortifications.

On April 18, a Houthi drone attack killed a 12-year-old child and two members of the 2nd Tihama Resistance Brigade stationed at Al-Udayn Junction in southern Hays district. That same day, Houthi forces exchanged mortar and Katyusha rocket fire with Joint Forces in Al-Haymah. According to a local source, the Joint Forces were extending combat fortifications in the area when they came under attack. On April 24, three explosives-laden Houthi drones targeted the Joint Forces in the eastern part of the Al-Qataba area in the north of Al-Khawkhah district in southwestern Hudaydah, according to soldiers on both sides. Two days later, on April 26, clashes erupted between the Joint Forces in the Al-Qataba area and Houthi forces stationed in the nearby Al-Hajroufah area in the south of Al-Tuhaytah district.

In neighboring Taiz, two civilians were shot dead by Houthi snipers in two separate incidents on April 21 and 25. Shelling from Houthi forces stationed in Maqbanah district in western Taiz killed three and injured nine members of the same family in the nearby village of Al-Majsh al-Ala in Mawza district. Ever since the Red Sea coast offensive by UAE-backed forces in late 2018, Mawza has been under the control of Tariq Saleh’s National Resistance forces, while most of Maqbanah has been under Houthi control.

Regular fighting was recorded in Lahj and Al-Dhalea governorates between Houthi and pro-STC forces. However, the clashes were less intense than in March, when dozens of Houthi fighters and STC and pro-government forces were killed and wounded.

Other Developments in Brief

April 6: Yemeni Coast Guard forces seized a dhow carrying over three tons of drugs during an inspection at the port of Nishtun. Minister of Information Muammar al-Eryani accused Houthi forces of being behind the smuggling, which included over three tons of hashish and 173 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and heroin. The government-run Sabanet news agency said the dhow was flying an Iranian flag and was manned by seven Iranian nationals.

April 10: The Commander of the 2nd Military Region, Fayez Mansour al-Tamimi, announced the establishment of a military site at Aqaba Harouba, which overlooks the road linking Wadi Amd and Sut Batis on the western edge of Amd district in Hadramawt, used by smugglers to transport goods across the Hadramawt-Shabwa border.

April 11: Eritrean authorities released 28 Yemeni fishermen who had been detained for three months at a naval base on Terma Island along the Eritrean coast, according to local residents, who noted that around 120 fishermen were still being held by Eritrean authorities, with some being subjected to torture and forced labor.

April 13: Houthi forces carried out military exercises on Kamaran Island and in the surrounding sea to the northwest of Hudaydah city. A video of the exercises showed a Houthi naval unit marching along the beach and driving heavily armed boats that symbolically circled a larger ship near the international shipping lane.

On April 13: Gunmen on a motorcycle assassinated Judge Abdulaziz Sufyan al-Tamimi in the village of Sinwan in Al-Maafer district, south of Taiz city.

April 19: Some 40 military vehicles belonging to the Saudi-backed Nation’s Shield forces passed through Ataq city in Shabwa, according to eyewitnesses. The convoy of Nation’s Shield forces, which are loyal to PLC chief Rashad al-Alimi, came from the Al-Wadea border crossing with Saudi Arabia and were on their way to Aden. The last time reinforcements of this size were sent from Al-Wadea to Aden was in February.

April 21: In Shabwa’s Bayhan district, forces from the 6th Brigade of the STC-affiliated Shabwa Defense forces killed Islah-affiliated Sheikh Abdullah al-Bani, the Director-General of the local Health and Population Office and longtime preacher at the Al-Matar mosque in Al-Ulya city as he was driving home from Eid prayers. The killing came after Al-Bani defied orders from the governorate-level Office of Endowments and Guidance to have the Salafist Director of Endowments in Bayhan lead the Eid prayer. In reaction to the killing, Governor Awadh bin al-Wazir al-Awlaki formed a security and military committee to investigate the incident, and eight soldiers of the 6th Brigade of the Shabwa Defense forces were arrested. On April 24, the Al-Musabeen tribe and clans in Bayhan set up a camp in the Eid prayer hall to demand retribution.

April 27-28: A yacht carrying three Russians and two Egyptians resurfaced after disappearing off the Red Sea coast of Yemen three days prior. The ship’s owner alleged they were attacked by pirates, and the yacht sustained scrapes and bullet holes. The next day, armed security guards on another yacht, once owned by Richard Burton, opened fire on Yemeni security forces, killing a member of the Coast Guard. The altercation began after Coast Guard boats approached the yacht, which they claimed was not flying a flag and ignoring radio calls after entering Yemen’s territorial waters off the coast of Al-Mahra. On May 7, Djibouti authorities seized the yacht.