Hanish Islands

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Location of the islands between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa.

The Ḩanīsh Islands (Arabic: جزر حنيش‎) are an island group in the Red Sea. Most of them are a part of Yemen, but before 1998–1999 they were claimed by Eritrea as well. After a long trial in an international court under the guidance of Abdul Karim al-Iryani, Yemen was granted full ownership of the larger islands while Eritrea was awarded the peripheral islands to the southwest.[1]

The three largest islands are Jabal Zuqar to the north (area ~130 km²), Al-Ḩanīsh al-Kabīr (Great Ḩanīsh) to the south (area ~116 km²), with the much smaller Al-Ḩanīsh al-Ṣaghīr (Little Ḩanīsh) between.


French-built lighthouse on the Hanish Islands

The Hanish Islands were claimed by the Ottoman Empire, a claim abandoned by Turkey in 1923. From that point forward they were administered by the Italian Colony of Eritrea until 1941. In 1941, after the surrender of the Italian colonial forces, the British army established Eritrea as a protectorate. Throughout the 1970s, Ethiopia (which had annexed Eritrea) and Yemen claimed the islands. Ethiopian interest in the Islands stemmed from the fact that Eritrean independence groups used the Hanish Islands, and the nearby Zuqar Island, as a base to attack Ethiopian military interests.[2]

In 1991 Eritrea gained independence and in 1995 attempted to exercise sovereignty over the archipelago. This started the Hanish Islands conflict, which was eventually ended after a brief conflict between Eritrea and Yemen over the islands. In all, 3–12 Eritreans and 4–15 Yemenis were killed in the fighting.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "International Maritime Boundary". Retrieved 2006-07-17. 
  2. ^ Killion, Tom (1998). Historical Dictionary of Eritrea. The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-3437-5. 

Coordinates: 13°45′N 42°45′E / 13.750°N 42.750°E / 13.750; 42.750