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ACAPS Briefing Note: Yemen - Escalation of conflict in Al-Jawf and Marib governorates (24 March 2020)

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Since the beginning of 2020 violence has been increasing across multiple locations in Yemen, including in Nihm (north East of Sana’a), Al Hodeidah, Ta’iz and Sana’a. At the end of February Houthi forces made significant gains in Al Jawf governorate, including taking control of Hazm, the provincial capital. As of mid-March, Houthi forces continue to advance on Marib governorate to the east.

This potentially opens a new frontline and if successful in holding newly captured territory, may shift the balance of power more into the hands of Houthis. Fighting between government and Houthi forces in and around Nihm and Al Jawf has led to the forced displacement of 5,700 families (39,900 people) into Marib governorate. IDPs are in need of humanitarian assistance, in particular shelter. Most of the new arrivals have moved to Marib city and the surrounding district. This area is already hosting over 750,000 IDPs from previous conflicts. Humanitarian agencies are attempting to respond but ongoing fighting, as well as pre-existing logistical and bureaucratic restraints, severely hamper operations.

Anticipated scope and scale

Large scale fighting in and around Marib city would lead to immense humanitarian need in a governorate that, prior to the recent influx was already hosting over 750,000 IDPs. Fighting in Marib risks further displacement of up to 500,000 people. As fighting escalates humanitarian access may be almost entirely blocked, as major highways into the governorate are cut off. An advance on Marib potentially paves the way for Houthi forces to move south, in the event of failed attempts to reach a negotiated settlement with Saudi Arabia. A successful Houthi takeover of Marib will likely exacerbate conflict with government and Saudi forces along other frontlines as the GoY attempts to suppress further Houthi territorial control.