Armed Conflict

16
Nov
15:58 UTC

Yemen SITUATION UPDATE: Saudi-led Coalition reportedly detects naval mine in southern Red Sea on November 14; shows threat to maritime activities in region

Executive Summary

  • On November 5, Saudi media reported that two Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah “experts” were killed in Saudi-led Coalition airstrikes targeting a Houthi site used to launch explosive-laden UAVs. This was likely exaggerated by Saudi media to project Iran as an aggressor in Yemen. 
  • On November 14, the Saudi-led Coalition reportedly detected a mine in the southern Red SeaThis highlights the risk posed to commercial maritime activity in the vicinity of Yemeni waters in the Red Sea. 
  • On November 13, Saudi official media reported a fire in the vicinity of a floating petroleum distribution station in Jazan Province following a November 11 interception of two Houthi-launched explosive-laden boats in the area. This shows the inability of the Saudi forces to completely mitigate the threat emanating from such attempted attacks by the Houthis. 
  • Overall, Houthi forces will continue to attempt to execute cross-border attacks, including via sea routes in the Red Sea against Saudi Arabia over the coming days and weeks.

Please be advised:

Across the country, the following incidents have been reported:

Abyan Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
1November 9 al-TariyaClashes broke out between pro-Hadi and Southern Transitional Council (STC)-linked forces.
1November 13al-Tariya According to reports, clashes broke out between pro-Hadi and STC-linked forces. The UAE-backed Security Belt Forces (SBF) announced territorial advances in the region. 
2November 13ShoqraPro-Hadi and pro-STC forces clashed in the area.

al-Jawf Governorate 

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
3November 7 Khaab wa ash Sha’af DistrictAnti-Houthi forces claimed territorial gains in the areas west of the al-Khanjar Military Camp. 
3November 12Khaab wa ash Sha’af DistrictHouthi and anti-Houthi forces reportedly clashed following the former’s attempt to regain lost territories.

Hajjah Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
4November 6 MidiPro-Hadi recruits denounced Saudi Arabia’s alleged refusal to pay salaries to soldiers. 

Hodeidah Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
5November 9Hays cityThe pro-Hadi National Resistance Forces claimed to have thwarted an offensive attempt by Houthi forces, after killing and wounding a number of them. 

Ibb Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
November 5UnspecifiedAccording to the official Houthi news agency, a “dangerous Islamic State (IS) element” was killed following his refusal to surrender. The individual was reportedly involved in a shooting attack against a civilian and engaged in disseminating  “takfiri” ideologies. Reports indicate that the individual originally hailed from Taiz Governorate.

Marib Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
6November 6 Marib cityThe Houthis reportedly fired a ballistic missile towards Marib city. It reportedly hit a civilian building, causing extensive material damage. 
7November 9 Makhadara, Sirwah districtPro-Hadi forces reportedly repelled a large-scale attack launched by Houthi forces.

Sanaa Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
8November 5 Arhab DistrictSaudi media reported that two Hezbollah “experts”, as well as 13 Houthi fighters, were killed in Saudi-led Coalition airstrikes targeting a Houthi site used to launch explosive-laden UAVs. 
9November 7Nihm DistrictPro-Hadi forces claimed to have shot down four Houthi UAVs. 
10November 11Sanaa cityHouthi forces reportedly stormed and forced the closure of a prominent bank headquarters and 25 of its branches. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the measure was taken by the Houthi authorities because the bank dealt with the Aden-based Central Bank of Yemen. Reports from November 15 indicated that the bank resumed operations. 

Shabwa Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
11November 8Radum District According to the official Hadi news agency, the agreement to construct the “Qena commercial port” was signed with a private company. The project will include the construction of floating tanks for oil derivatives within 60 days, the construction of berths, and tanks to store oil products at the site.
11November 14Radum DistrictA vehicle-borne IED (VBIED) reportedly exploded while an Emirati armored vehicle was traveling from Balhaf in Radum District to al-Alam camps. The driver was reportedly killed in the explosion.

Socotra Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
12November 6Socotra Airport, HadibohThe UAE reportedly sent an aircraft carrying troops for the STC-linked forces in Socotra. 
November 10UnspecifiedThe head of the STC local leadership inaugurated a new camp for the SBF in Socotra. The official emphasized that the SBF are “the rock on which all plots against security and stability are destroyed.”

Taiz Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
13November 8Maqbanah Pro-Hadi forces claimed to have launched attacks on Houthi positions, killing at least 15 Houthi elements. 
13November 12Maqbanah Pro-Hadi forces claimed further attacks on Houthi positions.

Saudi Arabia

DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
November 6 Sharorah, Najran Province, Raboah, Asir Province, Jazan ProvinceRecruits denounced Saudi Arabia’s alleged refusal to pay salaries to soldiers fighting among the pro-Hadi forces. 
November 9 UnspecifiedAccording to a report by the official Saudi news agency, the Saudi-led Coalition intercepted an explosives-laden UAV in an unspecified area in Yemeni airspace that was meant to target “civilians in the Kingdom.” 
November 9UnknownAccording to a report by the official Saudi news agency, the Saudi-led Coalition intercepted another explosives-laden UAV in an unspecified area in Yemeni airspace that was meant to target regions in southern Saudi Arabia.
November 11UnknownThe Houthi Military Spokesperson, Yahya Saree, issued an official statement threatening to attack Saudi Arabia’s vital “military and economic” assets. He further warned all foreign companies and civilians to avoid areas in the vicinity of military and economic infrastructures of “military importance” as they constitute strategic targets for Houthi attacks, over the coming days. 
November 12Unknown According to a report by the official Saudi news agency, the Saudi-led Coalition downed a total of five Houthi-launched explosive UAVs that aimed to target the kingdom.
November 13Jazan ProvinceAccording to the official Saudi news agency, a fire erupted near a floating petroleum distribution station. 

The reports indicated that the fire was due to an interception of two Houthi-launched remote-controlled, explosive-laden vessels on November 11, which Saudi reports initially stated occurred in an unspecified area “in the southern Red Sea”. Further reports indicated that the fire caused material damage to floating hoses at the platform. 

November 14UnknownAccording to Saudi Arabia’s official news agency, the Saudi-led Coalition downed an explosive-laden unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) launched by the Houthis and meant to target “civilians in the southern region”.

General Development

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
November 7AdenThe Head of Military Retirees Committee reportedly announced an “escalation” against the Hadi-led government, following the expiration of the deadline for late salary payments.
November 14Southern Red Sea The Saudi-led Coalition reportedly detected a mine in the southern Red Sea. The Coalition further announced that they removed 157 mines planted by the Houthis in the southern Red Sea during an unspecified period. 

Assessments & Forecast

  1. The November 5 airstrikes in Sanaa’s Arhab are notable due to the alleged killing of two Lebanese Hezbollah “experts”. This follows several reports, mainly from Saudi-linked media outlets, alleging the presence of Lebanese Hezbollah operatives in Yemen. For instance, in June 2018, the Saudi-led Coalition reportedly announced the killing of eight Hezbollah fighters in Saada Governorate. More recently, in February, Saudi media reported on the killing of four Hezbollah officials in coalition airstrikes in Sanaa Governorate. Should the latest incident be corroborated by independent sources, it would point towards active on-the-ground cooperation between the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite militant group and the Houthis in Yemen. This would likely be at the directive of Iran, which aims to bolster its proxy forces in order to push back its regional rivals, such as Saudi Arabia. However, it is more likely that the connection between the “experts” and Hezbollah was exaggerated by Saudi media to project Iran as a belligerent actor willing to exacerbate the conflict in Yemen to forward its regional interests. This is given that no evidence was provided by the reports on the targets being Hezbollah operatives. FORECAST: Regardless, Saudi media will likely continue to periodically report on the alleged involvement of Hezbollah’s involvement in Yemen over the coming months. 
  2. The reported detection of a mine in the southern Red Sea by the Saudi-led Coalition on November 14 comes amid a relatively concentrated Houthi effort to target Saudi Arabia over the recent days. This is evidenced by the fact that the Saudi-led Coalition intercepted eight explosive-laden UAVs launched towards the Kingdom between November 9 and November 14. Moreover, on November 11, the Houthis reportedly launched two explosive-laden vessels from Hodeidah Governorate. The naval mines placed are likely part of the Houthis’ efforts to threaten the maritime interests of Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Red Sea, which constitutes a strategic waterway for global oil shipments. This assessment is bolstered by a November 11 statement by the Houthi Military Spokesperson, where he advised foreigners and civilians to remain distant from economic and military infrastructure in the Kingdom, as such installations will be targeted in retaliation for the “Saudi blockade over Yemen”. Given this blockade, the mines were likely largely placed in Yemen’s territorial waters and possibly aimed to target a Coalition military vessel, rather than a commercial boat. While the Saudi-led Coalition did successfully detect the planted mine, it nonetheless reiterates the risk posed to commercial maritime activity in the vicinity of Yemeni waters in the Red Sea. 
  3. In the context of the Houthi threat against Saudi Arabia’s strategic assets, the November 13 reports by Saudi media on a fire erupting in the vicinity of a floating petroleum distribution station in Jazan Province during the interception of the explosive-laden vessels is highly notable for several reasons. Firstly, the report confirms that Houthi-launched explosive vessels managed to enter Saudi territorial waters and at least reached the vicinity of offshore oil installations in the Kingdom’s southern province without detection. This points towards existing gaps in the Saudi maritime forces’ monitoring capabilities and showcases the ability of the Houthis to threaten strategic assets beyond Yemen’s territorial waters. Moreover, it indicates that the Houthi forces possibly did seek to inflict damage upon Saudi Arabia’s economic infrastructure in the Red Sea, at least in areas adjacent to Yemeni territory.  While the attack was unsuccessful, the fire nonetheless showcases the risk of collateral damage during these interceptions and therefore the Coalition forces’ inability to completely mitigate the risk emanating from attempted attacks.
  4. FORECAST: Taken as a whole, the Saudi-led Coalition will likely seek to increase its vigilance and dedicate additional resources throughout the Red Sea for the detection and removal of naval mines planted by the Houthis as well as the interception of Houthi-launched explosive-laden vessels potentially aiming to target energy assets in the region. That being said, given that the Houthis maintain both the capabilities and the motive to continue executing cross-border attacks by air and, less frequently, the sea, they are highly likely to attempt similar attacks over the coming days and weeks. This will largely involve explosive-laden UAVs, and possibly explosive-laden boats and ballistic missiles, all of which were utilized by the Houthis in recent months. In this context, the possibility of a successful attack by the Houthis targeting strategic civilian infrastructure in southern Saudi Arabia and in the Red Sea over the coming months cannot be entirely ruled out.

Recommendations

  1. It is advised to avoid all travel to Sanaa and Aden.
  2. In the event of air strikes, it is advised to take shelter in a basement or on the second story level of a concrete building away from windows and the entrance. If no such areas are available, it is advised to take cover under a sturdy object in the center of the home away from windows; lay on the ground while covering your head with your hands.
  3. We advise against all travel to outlying areas and overland travel, due to the limited government and security presence, ongoing clashes and airstrikes, as well as the heightened threat of attacks and kidnappings.
  4. For those operating in or conducting business with oil facilities, it is advised to consult with us for itinerary and contingency support plans.
  5. Foreigners, particularly Westerners, continuing to operate in Yemen are additionally advised to maintain a low profile, exercise heightened vigilance, and avoid locales frequented by foreign, particularly Western nationals. To mitigate the risk of attacks or abductions, ensure that places of stay are equipped with sufficient perimeter security details, alter travel routes, and avoid disclosing sensitive itinerary information to unknown individuals.
COUNTRY RISK LEVEL Extreme
AFFECTED AREA Affected Area: Abyan, al-Jawf, Hajjah, Hodeidah, Ibb, Marib, Sanaa, Shabwa, Socotra, Taiz governorates; Yemen
INCIDENT RISK LEVEL Extreme
STRENGTH OF SOURCE Credible

Executive Summary

  • On November 5, Saudi media reported that two Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah “experts” were killed in Saudi-led Coalition airstrikes targeting a Houthi site used to launch explosive-laden UAVs. This was likely exaggerated by Saudi media to project Iran as an aggressor in Yemen. 
  • On November 14, the Saudi-led Coalition reportedly detected a mine in the southern Red SeaThis highlights the risk posed to commercial maritime activity in the vicinity of Yemeni waters in the Red Sea. 
  • On November 13, Saudi official media reported a fire in the vicinity of a floating petroleum distribution station in Jazan Province following a November 11 interception of two Houthi-launched explosive-laden boats in the area. This shows the inability of the Saudi forces to completely mitigate the threat emanating from such attempted attacks by the Houthis. 
  • Overall, Houthi forces will continue to attempt to execute cross-border attacks, including via sea routes in the Red Sea against Saudi Arabia over the coming days and weeks.

Please be advised:

Across the country, the following incidents have been reported:

Abyan Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
1November 9 al-TariyaClashes broke out between pro-Hadi and Southern Transitional Council (STC)-linked forces.
1November 13al-Tariya According to reports, clashes broke out between pro-Hadi and STC-linked forces. The UAE-backed Security Belt Forces (SBF) announced territorial advances in the region. 
2November 13ShoqraPro-Hadi and pro-STC forces clashed in the area.

al-Jawf Governorate 

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
3November 7 Khaab wa ash Sha’af DistrictAnti-Houthi forces claimed territorial gains in the areas west of the al-Khanjar Military Camp. 
3November 12Khaab wa ash Sha’af DistrictHouthi and anti-Houthi forces reportedly clashed following the former’s attempt to regain lost territories.

Hajjah Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
4November 6 MidiPro-Hadi recruits denounced Saudi Arabia’s alleged refusal to pay salaries to soldiers. 

Hodeidah Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
5November 9Hays cityThe pro-Hadi National Resistance Forces claimed to have thwarted an offensive attempt by Houthi forces, after killing and wounding a number of them. 

Ibb Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
November 5UnspecifiedAccording to the official Houthi news agency, a “dangerous Islamic State (IS) element” was killed following his refusal to surrender. The individual was reportedly involved in a shooting attack against a civilian and engaged in disseminating  “takfiri” ideologies. Reports indicate that the individual originally hailed from Taiz Governorate.

Marib Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
6November 6 Marib cityThe Houthis reportedly fired a ballistic missile towards Marib city. It reportedly hit a civilian building, causing extensive material damage. 
7November 9 Makhadara, Sirwah districtPro-Hadi forces reportedly repelled a large-scale attack launched by Houthi forces.

Sanaa Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
8November 5 Arhab DistrictSaudi media reported that two Hezbollah “experts”, as well as 13 Houthi fighters, were killed in Saudi-led Coalition airstrikes targeting a Houthi site used to launch explosive-laden UAVs. 
9November 7Nihm DistrictPro-Hadi forces claimed to have shot down four Houthi UAVs. 
10November 11Sanaa cityHouthi forces reportedly stormed and forced the closure of a prominent bank headquarters and 25 of its branches. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the measure was taken by the Houthi authorities because the bank dealt with the Aden-based Central Bank of Yemen. Reports from November 15 indicated that the bank resumed operations. 

Shabwa Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
11November 8Radum District According to the official Hadi news agency, the agreement to construct the “Qena commercial port” was signed with a private company. The project will include the construction of floating tanks for oil derivatives within 60 days, the construction of berths, and tanks to store oil products at the site.
11November 14Radum DistrictA vehicle-borne IED (VBIED) reportedly exploded while an Emirati armored vehicle was traveling from Balhaf in Radum District to al-Alam camps. The driver was reportedly killed in the explosion.

Socotra Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
12November 6Socotra Airport, HadibohThe UAE reportedly sent an aircraft carrying troops for the STC-linked forces in Socotra. 
November 10UnspecifiedThe head of the STC local leadership inaugurated a new camp for the SBF in Socotra. The official emphasized that the SBF are “the rock on which all plots against security and stability are destroyed.”

Taiz Governorate

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
13November 8Maqbanah Pro-Hadi forces claimed to have launched attacks on Houthi positions, killing at least 15 Houthi elements. 
13November 12Maqbanah Pro-Hadi forces claimed further attacks on Houthi positions.

Saudi Arabia

DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
November 6 Sharorah, Najran Province, Raboah, Asir Province, Jazan ProvinceRecruits denounced Saudi Arabia’s alleged refusal to pay salaries to soldiers fighting among the pro-Hadi forces. 
November 9 UnspecifiedAccording to a report by the official Saudi news agency, the Saudi-led Coalition intercepted an explosives-laden UAV in an unspecified area in Yemeni airspace that was meant to target “civilians in the Kingdom.” 
November 9UnknownAccording to a report by the official Saudi news agency, the Saudi-led Coalition intercepted another explosives-laden UAV in an unspecified area in Yemeni airspace that was meant to target regions in southern Saudi Arabia.
November 11UnknownThe Houthi Military Spokesperson, Yahya Saree, issued an official statement threatening to attack Saudi Arabia’s vital “military and economic” assets. He further warned all foreign companies and civilians to avoid areas in the vicinity of military and economic infrastructures of “military importance” as they constitute strategic targets for Houthi attacks, over the coming days. 
November 12Unknown According to a report by the official Saudi news agency, the Saudi-led Coalition downed a total of five Houthi-launched explosive UAVs that aimed to target the kingdom.
November 13Jazan ProvinceAccording to the official Saudi news agency, a fire erupted near a floating petroleum distribution station. 

The reports indicated that the fire was due to an interception of two Houthi-launched remote-controlled, explosive-laden vessels on November 11, which Saudi reports initially stated occurred in an unspecified area “in the southern Red Sea”. Further reports indicated that the fire caused material damage to floating hoses at the platform. 

November 14UnknownAccording to Saudi Arabia’s official news agency, the Saudi-led Coalition downed an explosive-laden unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) launched by the Houthis and meant to target “civilians in the southern region”.

General Development

Map #DateDistrict/CityBrief Description
November 7AdenThe Head of Military Retirees Committee reportedly announced an “escalation” against the Hadi-led government, following the expiration of the deadline for late salary payments.
November 14Southern Red Sea The Saudi-led Coalition reportedly detected a mine in the southern Red Sea. The Coalition further announced that they removed 157 mines planted by the Houthis in the southern Red Sea during an unspecified period. 

Assessments & Forecast

  1. The November 5 airstrikes in Sanaa’s Arhab are notable due to the alleged killing of two Lebanese Hezbollah “experts”. This follows several reports, mainly from Saudi-linked media outlets, alleging the presence of Lebanese Hezbollah operatives in Yemen. For instance, in June 2018, the Saudi-led Coalition reportedly announced the killing of eight Hezbollah fighters in Saada Governorate. More recently, in February, Saudi media reported on the killing of four Hezbollah officials in coalition airstrikes in Sanaa Governorate. Should the latest incident be corroborated by independent sources, it would point towards active on-the-ground cooperation between the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite militant group and the Houthis in Yemen. This would likely be at the directive of Iran, which aims to bolster its proxy forces in order to push back its regional rivals, such as Saudi Arabia. However, it is more likely that the connection between the “experts” and Hezbollah was exaggerated by Saudi media to project Iran as a belligerent actor willing to exacerbate the conflict in Yemen to forward its regional interests. This is given that no evidence was provided by the reports on the targets being Hezbollah operatives. FORECAST: Regardless, Saudi media will likely continue to periodically report on the alleged involvement of Hezbollah’s involvement in Yemen over the coming months. 
  2. The reported detection of a mine in the southern Red Sea by the Saudi-led Coalition on November 14 comes amid a relatively concentrated Houthi effort to target Saudi Arabia over the recent days. This is evidenced by the fact that the Saudi-led Coalition intercepted eight explosive-laden UAVs launched towards the Kingdom between November 9 and November 14. Moreover, on November 11, the Houthis reportedly launched two explosive-laden vessels from Hodeidah Governorate. The naval mines placed are likely part of the Houthis’ efforts to threaten the maritime interests of Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Red Sea, which constitutes a strategic waterway for global oil shipments. This assessment is bolstered by a November 11 statement by the Houthi Military Spokesperson, where he advised foreigners and civilians to remain distant from economic and military infrastructure in the Kingdom, as such installations will be targeted in retaliation for the “Saudi blockade over Yemen”. Given this blockade, the mines were likely largely placed in Yemen’s territorial waters and possibly aimed to target a Coalition military vessel, rather than a commercial boat. While the Saudi-led Coalition did successfully detect the planted mine, it nonetheless reiterates the risk posed to commercial maritime activity in the vicinity of Yemeni waters in the Red Sea. 
  3. In the context of the Houthi threat against Saudi Arabia’s strategic assets, the November 13 reports by Saudi media on a fire erupting in the vicinity of a floating petroleum distribution station in Jazan Province during the interception of the explosive-laden vessels is highly notable for several reasons. Firstly, the report confirms that Houthi-launched explosive vessels managed to enter Saudi territorial waters and at least reached the vicinity of offshore oil installations in the Kingdom’s southern province without detection. This points towards existing gaps in the Saudi maritime forces’ monitoring capabilities and showcases the ability of the Houthis to threaten strategic assets beyond Yemen’s territorial waters. Moreover, it indicates that the Houthi forces possibly did seek to inflict damage upon Saudi Arabia’s economic infrastructure in the Red Sea, at least in areas adjacent to Yemeni territory.  While the attack was unsuccessful, the fire nonetheless showcases the risk of collateral damage during these interceptions and therefore the Coalition forces’ inability to completely mitigate the risk emanating from attempted attacks.
  4. FORECAST: Taken as a whole, the Saudi-led Coalition will likely seek to increase its vigilance and dedicate additional resources throughout the Red Sea for the detection and removal of naval mines planted by the Houthis as well as the interception of Houthi-launched explosive-laden vessels potentially aiming to target energy assets in the region. That being said, given that the Houthis maintain both the capabilities and the motive to continue executing cross-border attacks by air and, less frequently, the sea, they are highly likely to attempt similar attacks over the coming days and weeks. This will largely involve explosive-laden UAVs, and possibly explosive-laden boats and ballistic missiles, all of which were utilized by the Houthis in recent months. In this context, the possibility of a successful attack by the Houthis targeting strategic civilian infrastructure in southern Saudi Arabia and in the Red Sea over the coming months cannot be entirely ruled out.

Recommendations

  1. It is advised to avoid all travel to Sanaa and Aden.
  2. In the event of air strikes, it is advised to take shelter in a basement or on the second story level of a concrete building away from windows and the entrance. If no such areas are available, it is advised to take cover under a sturdy object in the center of the home away from windows; lay on the ground while covering your head with your hands.
  3. We advise against all travel to outlying areas and overland travel, due to the limited government and security presence, ongoing clashes and airstrikes, as well as the heightened threat of attacks and kidnappings.
  4. For those operating in or conducting business with oil facilities, it is advised to consult with us for itinerary and contingency support plans.
  5. Foreigners, particularly Westerners, continuing to operate in Yemen are additionally advised to maintain a low profile, exercise heightened vigilance, and avoid locales frequented by foreign, particularly Western nationals. To mitigate the risk of attacks or abductions, ensure that places of stay are equipped with sufficient perimeter security details, alter travel routes, and avoid disclosing sensitive itinerary information to unknown individuals.
COUNTRY RISK LEVEL Extreme
AFFECTED AREA Affected Area: Abyan, al-Jawf, Hajjah, Hodeidah, Ibb, Marib, Sanaa, Shabwa, Socotra, Taiz governorates; Yemen
INCIDENT RISK LEVEL Extreme
STRENGTH OF SOURCE Credible