Hanish Islands conflict
|Hanish Islands conflict|
Map of the Hanish islands
|Commanders and leaders|
|Sebhat Ephrem||Ali Abdullah Saleh|
|Casualties and losses|
|12 killed||15 killed
|17 Yemeni civilians captured|
The Hanish Islands conflict, was a dispute between Yemen and Eritrea over the island of Greater Hanish in the Red Sea, one of the largest in the then disputed Zukur-Hanish archipelago. Fighting took place over three days from 15 December to 17 December 1995. In 1998 the Permanent Court of Arbitration determined that the most of archipelago belonged to Yemen.
The archipelago is on the southern side of the Red Sea near Bab-el-Mandeb (Mouth of the Red Sea). The Red Sea is about 30 miles (50 km) wide at this point. Since the British occupation of Aden the islands had generally been regarded as part of Yemen.
After being granted independence and membership of the United Nations, the new Eritrean government had started negotiations with Yemen over the status of the archipelago. Two rounds of talks had taken place before the invasion:
Gutmann [French mediator] produced an Agreement on Principles, which Eritrea and Yemen signed on 21 May. The two sides agreed to resort to arbitration, to refrain from using force, and to abide by the verdict of an arbitration tribunal. The French mediation effort almost collapsed when, on 10 August, Eritrean forces occupied Hanish al-Saghir. With Yemen threatening to take military action, the UN Security Council ordered Eritrean troops off the island. Asmara withdrew its forces on 27 August…. The renewed threat of conflict prompted Eritrea, at the end of August, to begin deploying along its coastline Russian-made SAM missiles acquired from Ethiopia.—Lefebvre 
On 22 November 1995, Yemen's Foreign Minister Adb al-Karim al-Iryani met in San'a' with three Eritrean officials to discuss the problem. Iryani, heading a Yemeni delegation, then attended a meeting in Eritrea on 7 December. There, both sides agreed to resolve their dispute over maritime borders through negotiations, which they scheduled for February 1996. If those negotiations failed, both sides agreed to take the case to the ICJ at The Hague.—Lefebvre 
Greater Hanish (or Hanish al-Kabir) is one of three main islands in an archipelago, and until 1995 was inhabited only by a handful of Yemeni fishermen. In 1995 a German company, under Yemeni auspices, began building a hotel and scuba diving centre on the Island. The Yemenis then sent a force of 200 men to guard the construction site. Eritrean officials thought that the construction work which the Yemen started on Greater Hanish was an attempt to establish facts on the ground before the negotiations scheduled for February started. "Prompted by concern over the Yemeni construction project on Hanish al-Kabir, Eritrea's Foreign Minister Petros Solomon delivered, on 11 November 1995, an ultimatum giving San'a one month to withdraw Yemeni military forces and civilians from Hanish al-Kabir".
Armed conflict 
When the Eritrean ultimatum ran out and the Yemeni military forces and civilians had not withdrawn, Eritrea launched an operation to take the island by force. The Eritreans used all seaworthy vessels that they had to land ground forces on the islands. Some Eritrean troops landed in fishing vessels and a commandeered Egyptian ferry. The Eritreans also used aircraft to ferry troops to the island. Eritrean forces attacked the Yemeni contingent and overran the entire island within three days of combat. During the fighting, a Russian merchant ship was damaged by Eritrean gunfire after being mistaken for a Yemeni naval vessel.
Allegations of Israeli involvement 
The attack was allegedly supported by Israel. According to Yemeni sources, the Eritrean operation may have been directed by Israeli officers. Sources close to the office of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh claimed that "several Israelis" had directed the operation, including a Lieutenant-Colonel named as Michael Duma. This claim was based on several coded messages in Hebrew allegedly intercepted by Yemeni intelligence.
As no resolution to the problem could be reached in bilateral talks, the status of the archipelago was placed in front of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in the Netherlands. At the conclusion of the proceedings, both nations acquiesced to the 1998 decision which said sovereignty should be shared.
On 1 November 1998 "Yemeni Defence Minister Mohammad Diefallah Mohammad raised his country's flag over the island of Greater Hanish as Yemeni army and navy troops took up positions on it. At the same time, Eritrean troops departed on board a helicopter and a naval vessel."
- Other names:
- Eritrean-Yemeni border conflict (Air University Library Publications)
- Hanish Islands dispute (Schofield (cited by Dzurek))
- Eritrea-Yemen dispute (Dzurek)
- Hanish Islands crisis (Wertheim. p. 1033)
- Odd War (Younis)
- Lefebvre References page 381, (Quoted by Saleh AA Younis References)
- Lefebvre References page 373 (Quoted by Saleh AA Younis References)
- Lefebvre References page 372-373
- "Flights back on between Yemen and Eritrea". London: BBC. 1998-12-13. Retrieved 2006-06-07.
- United Nations and international organizations page Michigan State University. November 1, 1998 Yemen flag raised overGreater Hanish
- Dzurek, Daniel J. (1996). Eritrea-Yemen Dispute Over the Hanish Islands Boundary and Security Bulletin, 1996 - Durham University
- ICRC Eritrea: 196 prisoners of war and 17 civilians repatriated to Yemen 30 December 1995
- Lefebtre, Jeffrey A. "Red Sea Security And The Geopolitical-Economy of The Hanish Islands Dispute" (Middle East Journal, Volume 52, No 3.) summer of 1998
- Schofield, C. H. and Pratt, M. A. (1996 - in press), The Hanish Islands Dispute in the Southern Red Sea, Jane’s Intelligence Review. (cited by Dzurek)
- Staff, Yemem, Air University Library Publications, Middle East, December 1999,
- Staff. "Whore wars? The Red Sea. (Hanish Islands)", Economist (London), vol. 338, no. 7947, 13 January 1996, pp. 43–44.)
- Staff. title=El Salvador Civil War, globalsecurity.org, Retrieved 2006-08-25
- Wertheim, Eric. The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World: Their Ships, Aircraft, and Systems, Naval Institute Press, 2007 ISBN 1-59114-955-X.
- Whitaker, Brian. Clash over islands in Middle East International 5 January 1996
- Younis, Saleh AA. The Lessons of Yemen, Saudi Gazzette, December 14, 2004
Further reading 
- Comparative Study Between Yemeni-Eritrean Ways of Documentation in Arbitration Over Red Sea South Islands 52 - in By: Abdullah Mohammed Al-Saidi Vice Minister of foreign Affairs in Law & Diplomacy - Issue 52 - Yemen Times December 27 through January 2, 2000, Vol IX
- Allegation and counter allegations:
- Air University Library Publications: MIDDLE EAST: December 1999:YEMEN Gidron, Avner. "Disputes: Eritrea's Ally?" World Press Review 43:25 March 1996. "Yemen alleges that Israel backed the Eritrean troops who captured three Red Sea islands from Yemen".
- Ethiopia-Sudan-Yemen alliance a "conspiracy", Eritrea’s FM reported in the Sudan Tribune 8 January 2004. Text of interview with Eritrean Foreign Minister Ali Said Abdella by Musa Idriss entitled "Sanaa Grouping was born by ’caesarean’ - its aims: asphyxiating Eritrea," says Eritrean foreign minister"; published by London-based newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat on 6 January 2004;
- Eritrea-Yemen Arbitration at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague, The Netherlands:
- Arbitration Agreement (October 3, 1996)
- Phase I: Territorial Sovereignty and Scope of Dispute
- Phase II: Delimitations and Disposition
- Award: Maritime Delimitation: Introduction