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Military & Security Truce Extended As Frontlines See Less Violence

Much as in April, the month of May saw the continued absence of heavy fighting in Yemen during the two-month UN-backed truce announced at the start of Ramadan. Frontlines remained stable, and there were few claims of heavy casualties in the clashes that did occur, although the Yemeni government and Houthi forces accused each other of truce violations throughout May. On June 2, the UN special envoy’s office announced that the Yemeni government and the Houthi movement had agreed to renew the truce, which was scheduled to expire that day, for an additional two months.

In Sana’a, where commercial flights resumed in May after a six-year gap, the skies were once again largely empty of Saudi-led coalition traffic, with no air strikes reported there or anywhere else in the country. However, on May 23 there was a brief moment of fear that the strikes had resumed when a large explosion shook the busy Al-Ruwaishan intersection of Sana’a city’s Haddah district. The Houthis later said that they had shot down a Saudi reconnaissance drone, which they described as a Chinese-made CH4, with a locally-made surface-to-air missile. The drone landed on a busy street, killing three people.

Perhaps the most notable battlefield events took place in Marib, where the Houthis continued to occupy positions just outside Marib city, the last major northern city under the total control of the government. The proximity of the two sides led to occasional clashes, such as on May 9, when Houthi forces claimed to have prevented an infiltration attempt by pro-government forces toward their positions on the eastern Jabal Al-Balaq mountain range, which lies to Marib city’s south, killing nine of the government fighters. For its part, the Yemeni government claimed that Houthi forces were continuing to attack civilians and fighters with drone and sniper attacks, and accused the group of shelling government forces in northern Al-Jawf governorate.

Taiz city, which was at the center of negotiations between the Yemeni government and the Houthi movement over opening roads to the besieged city (see Politics & Diplomacy, ‘Yemeni Gov’t: Houthis Cede Little Ground in Taiz Road Negotiations’), also saw violence. The government-held areas of the city continued to come under occasional Houthi attacks. On May 4, at least eight policemen were injured after a reported Houthi drone attack targeted a police station on Al-Urdhi Street, in the east of the city, with the government holding the Houthis responsible for “undermining the truce”. At least two children were also killed in separate reported incidents in Taiz governorate, one on May 13, when a home was hit by Houthi shelling in Al-Sa’ilah village, Al-Dhabab area, in western Taiz governorate, and the other on May 27, when a Houthi sniper stationed in the Central Security base in Taiz city shot a child in the Kalabah area of the city.

Incidents were also reported in several other governorates. In Sa’ada, the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition traded accusations of being behind the deaths of at least seven migrants near the border at Al-Raqu area in Munabbih district on May 13. In Hudaydah, Giants Brigades forces claimed to have killed several Houthi fighters on May 20 in Al-Haymah area of Al-Tuhayta district. On May 18, in Al-Dhalea, joint government and pro-Southern Transitional Council (STC) forces were reported to have clashed with Houthi forces in Qa’atabah district, leading to alleged Houthi losses.

While the battlefields were relatively quiet, the new Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) felt safe enough to continue its work from inside the country (see Politics & Diplomacy, ‘Developments in Government-Controlled Territory’). On May 30, the executive body formed a military and security committee, headed by former defense minister Haitham Tahir, tasked with restructuring military and security forces in the anti-Houthi camp under a unified command structure.

Still, the security situation in Yemen’s southern regions remained fragile. On May 6, when suspected Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula gunmen carrying medium and light weapons attacked the STC’s Security Belt headquarters in Al-Dhalea city, killing the deputy head of the Security Belt forces in the governorate, Waleed al-Dhami, the head of the governorate’s counter-terrorism forces, Mohammed al-Shawbaji and several soldiers. Meanwhile, on May 15, the chief of staff of the government’s 4th Military Region, General Saleh Ali Hassan, survived an assassination attempt after a car bomb exploded as his convoy passed through Aden’s Al-Mualla district. On May 26, five civilians were killed and 45 others were injured after an explosion at a fish market in Aden’s Al-Hashimi area. The cause of the explosion was unclear, with some saying it was the result of a hand grenade, and others an IED.

Program/Project: The Yemen Review