The United Nations has been pushing for a halt to the air strikes and fighting that have killed nearly 3,000 people in Yemen since March when the Saudi-led coalition intervened against the Iranian-backed Houthi forces to try to restore exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The Houthis have also signaled readiness to honor a truce.
- Codenamed Operation Raahat, the mission was launched in the last week of March to bring back Indians from war-torn Yemen. Raahat means relief in Hindi.
- India sought Saudi Arabia’s permission to conduct aerial sorties to Yemen’s largest city of Sana’a on a daily basis.
- INS Mumbai—a missile destroyer—and two other vessels, including war ship INS Tarkash and INS Sumitra were sent to Yemen last week.
- 23 other nations have reached out to India to help in evacuating their citizens.
- The main fight is between the president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi & Zaidi Shia rebels known as Houthis.
- Mr. Hadi is also supported in the predominantly Sunni south of the country.
- Both President Hadi and the Houthis are opposed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
- Further complications? After rebel forces closed in on the president’s southern stronghold of Aden, Saudi Arabia came in to support the president Hadi.
- The Shia-ruled Iran (allegedly) came in support of the Houthi rebels and upped the ante!
- Inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Yemen rallied against its 3-decades-old rule of President Saleh. He stepped down.
- But the transitional govt. & Houthi rebels remained at loggerheads & in september 2014, Houthi rebels swept into Sanaa and seized control of the capital.
- The conflict between the Houthis and the elected government is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.
- Yemen is strategically important because it sits on the Bab al-Mandab strait, a narrow waterway linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden.
- Through this strait, much of the world’s oil shipments pass. Egypt and Saudi Arabia fear a Houthi takeover would threaten free passage through the strait.
- For much of the 20th Century, Yemen existed as 2 separate countries – the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) in the north & the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) in the south.
- In 1990, the countries chose to unify and create the Republic of Yemen.
- Soon there were issues of weak governance, corruption, resource depletion and poor infrastructure & the southerners fought an unsuccessful civil war in 1994 to reverse the unification.