ADEN, YEMEN — Saudi Arabia has rung in the new year in a familiar way, with an airstrike targeting a large gathering of civilians at a wedding ceremony in Yemen. On new year’s night, at least five civilians were killed when Saudi-backed militants launched artillery rounds at a wedding ceremony in the populated al-Hawk area in the strategic port city of Hodeida.
Developments taking place across the Middle East are driving the reality home in Yemen that 2021 is unlikely to bring about an end to Saudi Arabia’s nearly six-year-long war on their country. Signs of escalation are beginning to surface gradually in the Yemeni interior and along the Red Sea in the wake of the wave of normalization between the Gulf states and Tel Aviv.
After nearly six years of war, Yemen remains home to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Millions are hungry and destitute and at least 80% of the population requires humanitarian assistance or protection. Some 13.5 million people face severe food shortages and that number could rise to 16.2 million in 2021, according to International Relief Bodies. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) raised the alarm about millions of Yemenis risking falling into worsening levels of hunger by mid-2021. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) also described the crisis in Yemen as “the world’s worst.”
The Saudi blockade on what was already one of the poorest countries on earth has entailed tight control over all aspects of life in Yemen since 2015, however, there are no indications that the Saudi blockade of Sana’a International Airport and Hodeida port will be lifted, the most important air and land ports in the country, and the cause of more Yemeni deaths than Saudi airstrikes, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
An Israeli blitzkrieg
On the ground, signs of escalation are expected to intensify during 2021 as an open military confrontation between Yemen and Israel seems closer than ever in the wake of recent Israel statements, including the statement of the spokesman for the Israeli military, Brigadier General Hidai Zilberman, who revealed to a Saudi website on Saturday the intention of his forces to launch a blitzkrieg in Yemen, confirming that Israel has been monitoring the situation in Yemen and Iraq. The Yemeni people fear that they will pay the price for tensions between Iran and the United States,