Yemeni security officials revealed this week that forces loyal to the nation’s president-in-exile have regained control of that country’s coastline. But the cost paid by average Yemenis during what the Saudi Arabia-led coalition dubbed Operation Decisive Storm has been steep.
“The United Nations says the conflict in Yemen has killed 600 people, wounded 2,200 and displaced 100,000 since Houthi rebels allied with Iran seized the capital Sanaa in September,” Reuters reported on Tuesday.
Health services in Yemen are on the brink of collapse amid critical shortages of life-saving medicines, oxygen and fuel, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
Prices of essential medicines have increased by more than 300 percent, and the shortage of water has increased the risk of diarrhea and other diseases and is affecting basic hygiene in hospitals and clinics, the Geneva-based organization said.
On Tuesday, Saudi forces announced that they had achieved their objectives over the course of Operation Decisive Storm and it would be winding down. But while that operation was ending, Saudi commanders revealed that a new phase of combat operations in Yemen set to commence this week.
“Anti-Houthi coalition airstrikes in Yemen removed any threat posed to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries, the Kingdom’s ministry of defense said on Tuesday,” The Saudi-owned news organization Al Arabiya reported. “Sorties reportedly targeted and destroyed ballistic missiles operated by Houthis and militias loyal to deposed leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, a statement said.”
The Saudi coalition revealed that a new phase of the war in Yemen dubbed “Operation Restoring Hope” will begin on Wednesday. The new mission will reportedly prioritize civilian life and include a diplomatic component while continuing to execute combat operations against suspected terrorist actors.
With memories of the Egyptian invasion of Yemen in 1962 looming large in the minds of Arab region military planners, reports published earlier this month speculated that Saudi-led coalition forces might decline to mount a costly ground invasion of Yemen. Instead, the coalition could instead support unreliable indigenous forces to take the fight to the Houthis on the ground as the air campaign beings to yield diminishing returns. It is unclear whether this new phase of combat operations in Yemen will include a ground component, but the end of the first stage of the war suggests that it will.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has dispatched an aircraft carrier and a guided-missile cruiser with the mission of preventing an Iranian convoy believed to be transporting weapons from resupplying the besieged Houthis. “The deployment comes after a U.N. Security Council resolution approved last week imposed an arms embargo on rebel leaders,” Fox News reported. “The resolution passed in a 14-0 vote with Russia abstaining.”
If there was any doubt that the war in Yemen is a proxy battle between Iran and the Arab region’s Sunni powers, that doubt should have been dispelled by this development.