June 05, 2018

2018 Red Sea Coast Offensive

An Emirati-backed Yemeni offensive has secured the main coastal road to al Hudaydah. Yemeni forces, including the National Resistance Forces commanded by Tariq Saleh, Giants Brigade commanded by southern Salafis, Tihama Resistance forces, and Saudi-led coalition forces, advanced roughly 30 miles north between May 24 and 28 seizing populated areas along the road. These forces are consolidating their positions and amassing in al Darayhimi district along the coast south of al Hudaydah city to prepare for the next phase of the operation. Al Houthi forces blocked advances inland toward a parallel road near al Zabid and al Husseiniya cities and are reinforcing positions in Bayt al Faqiah district, southeast of al Hudaydah city. They counterattacked in al Darayhimi and in al Tuhayta districts on June 1 and 2 and are blocking an advance north from Hays city toward al Jarahi city. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths, who will present his plan to the UN Security Council on June 18, had warned that a military recapture of al Hudaydah city would spoil efforts to resume political negotiations. Griffiths proposed placing the port under UN supervision as an alternative to a Saudi-led coalition offensive during a June 2 meeting with al Houthi officials in Sana’a. UN and international aid agencies warn that damage to or closure of al Hudaydah port will exacerbate Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.

It is not clear whether or when the assault on al Hudaydah city and port will begin.  A transition of control to a UN administration might be sufficient for the coalition, which sought a similar measure in July 2017. The UAE has requested direct support, such as aerial surveillance, from the United States and pledged not to seize the port without backing from Washington. The next advance will most likely be to secure the inland road that runs parallel to the coastal road through al Marawi’ah, northeast of al Hudaydah, in order to establish a defensible position. Al Houthi forces will contest these positions and will continue strengthening current positions with deployments from neighboring governorates.

Miranda Morton and Tomás Padgett Perez contributed research to this report.