Fighting between their allies in southern Yemen has opened a gaping wound in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ coalition against the country’s rebels. If they can’t fix it, it threatens to tear the country apart into even smaller warring pieces. Last week saw a stunning escalation in the turmoil in the south, as Emirati warplanes blasted fighters loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi — the man the coalition is supposed to be trying to restore to power. Dozens were killed, and the UAE rubbed salt in the wound by calling Hadi’s forces “terrorists.” Hadi’s loyalists call the strike a “turning point” and accuse the UAE of fomenting a coup by its allied militias to topple his government and seek secession in the south. In August, the militias overran Aden and other southern cities, driving out Hadi’s forces in bloody fighting. When they tried to expand into oil-rich Shabwa province, the Saudis rushed supplies to Hadi’s forces to drive them back. With U.S. backing, Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched their coalition in 2015 to fight the Iran-backed Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who had seized the capital, Sanaa, and large parts of the country. The coalition vowed to stop what it considers an Iranian takeover attempt. The ensuing civil war has killed tens of thousands, driven millions from their homes, destroyed the country and thrown much of the population into near starvation. Yet four years later, the Houthis remain in control of much of
“Individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, may have conducted airstrikes in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, and may have used starvation as a method of warfare, acts that may amount to war crimes,” it said.
“Both countries reaffirm their keenness to preserve the Yemeni state and the interests, security, stability, independence and territorial integrity of the Yemeni people under the leadership of the legitimate president of Yemen, and to counter the coup of the Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist militia and other terrorist organizations,” the statement said.