Civil War in Yemen

  • The Saudi-led coalition resumed air strikes on Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah after a lull on Monday as Western allies pressed Riyadh to end a war that has left the impoverished country on the verge of starvation.
  • But even before the lull, at least 150 people were killed in 24 hours of clashes in the port city.
  • The respite that followed coincided with a visit by British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt to Saudi Arabia to press for an end to the nearly four-year war that has killed more than 10,000 people.
  • Western governments that support the coalition with arms and intelligence have toughened their stance on Yemen after the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 sparked a global outcry and opened Riyadh to possible sanctions.
  • Hodeidah is an entry point for 80 percent of the impoverished country’s food imports and relief supplies. The United Nations has warned that any disruption to the port risks triggering a famine.

Geography of Yemen

  • Yemen has some of the most fertile lands in the entire Middle East, and yet, for the most part, they’re not developed to their full potential.
    Along its Red Seacoast there’s a flat sandy plain that extends the length of the country.
  • The Gulf of Adencoastline is covered by a narrow, rocky, and relatively flat plain, fronted by hills that rise into the rugged mountains, central and west.
  • To the north of those central mountains, the high desert slopes down through fertile plains into the interior of southern Saudi Arabia, and the endless sands of the Rub’ Al Khali Desert – the famous “Empty Quarter.”
  • Yemen’s highest point is Jabal an Nabi Shu’ayb at 12,336 ft. (3,760 m). There are no perennial lakes and rivers, however, in the northern highlands some river valleys (wadis) small streams exist (fall and winter) but fade away quickly in the summer heat.

History of Yemen

  • Yemen’s history dates back to 1200-650 BCE and 750-115 BCE with the Minaean and Sabaean kingdoms. During this time, society in Yemen centred around trade.
  • In the first century C.E., it was invaded by the Romans, followed by Persia and Ethiopia in the 6th century C.E. Yemen then converted to Islam in 628 CE and in the 10th century it became controlled by the Rassite dynasty, a part of the Zaidi sect, which remained powerful in Yemen’s politics until the 1960s.
  • The Ottoman Empire also spread into Yemen from 1538 to 1918 but because of separate allegiances in terms of political power, Yemen was divided into North and South Yemen. In 1918, North Yemen became independent of the Ottoman Empire and followed a religious-led or theocratic political structure until a military overthrow took place in 1962, at which time the area became the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR).
  • South Yemen was colonized by Britain in 1839 and in 1937 it became known as the Aden Protectorate. In the 1960s though, the Nationalist Liberation Front fought Britain’s rule and the People’s Republic of Southern Yemen was established on November 30, 1967.
  • In 1979, the former Soviet Union began to influence South Yemen and it became the only Marxist nation of the Arab countries. With the beginning of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1989 however, South Yemen joined the Yemen Arab Republic and on May 20, 1990, the two formed the Republic of Yemen.
  • Cooperation between the two former nations in Yemen lasted only a short time though and in 1994 a civil war between the north and the south began. Shortly after the civil war’s start and an attempted succession by the south, the north won the war.
  • In the years following Yemen’s civil war, instability for Yemen itself and militant actions by terrorist groups in the country have continued.
  • For example, in the late 1990s, a militant Islamic group, the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, kidnapped several groups of Western tourists and in 2000 suicide bombers attacked the United States Navy ship, Cole. Throughout the 2000’s, several other terrorist attacks have occurred in or near Yemen’s coast.
  • In the late 2000’s, in addition to terrorist actions, various radical groups have emerged in Yemen and have further increased the country’s instability. Most recently, members of al-Qaeda have begun to settle in Yemen and in January 2009, the al-Qaeda groups in Saudi Arabia and Yemen joined to create a group called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
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