Yemenite War of 1972

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First Yemenite War
Part of the Cold War, the Sino-Soviet split, and the Arab Cold War
Divided Yemen.svg
North & South Yemen
Date26 September – 19 October 1972
(3 weeks and 2 days)
North Yemen–South Yemen border

Cairo Agreement

  • No territorial changes
  • Two Yemens pledge ambition to unify

 North Yemen
Supported By:

 South Yemen
 Cuba[1][better source needed]
Supported By:

Commanders and leaders
Yemen Arab Republic Abdul Rahman al-Eryani
Yemen Arab Republic Ali Abdullah Saleh
Abdul Fattah Ismail

The First Yemenite War was a short military conflict between the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR; North Yemen) and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY; South Yemen).[2]


South Arabian League (SAL) rebels attacked positions in eastern South Yemen, arriving from Saudi Arabia on February 20, 1972.[3] The rebels were defeated by South Yemen government troops on February 24, 1972, with some 175 rebels killed during the military hostilities.[3] Prime Minister Ali Nasir Muhammad survived an assassination attempt by SAL rebels on May 22, 1972.[3] Six persons were sentenced to death for plotting to overthrow the government on July 9, 1972.[3] Saudi Arabia continued to oppose South Yemen and supported the Northern Yemeni troops in the upcoming struggle.


The war, initiated by North Yemen,[4] started on 26 September 1972,[4][5] the tenth anniversary of the start of the North Yemen Civil War.[4] A force composed of members of different political groups and exiled tribesmen from South Yemen, equipped with Alvis Saladin armoured cars provided by Libya and artillery donated by the North Yemeni military, invaded South Yemen in the Qatabah area. In response, the South Yemenis brought several of their battalions to the area of the border with the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen). The South Yemeni air force (PDRYAF) also started bombing the areas invaded by the Northerners, and their military positions. Over the course of one such mission, on 30 September, a PDRYAF MiG-17 fighter was shot down and its pilot killed. In the end, South Yemeni counterattacks supported by air strikes caused over 200 casualties to the invaders, and recovered all of the lost territory. Overall, during the short war, the Southern military demonstrated its capability to run well-planned operations. Its logistics system proved adequate, and the air force's actions in ground-attack and supply missions were deemed effective.[6] During the conflict, the Yemen Arab Republic (North) was supplied by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, the United Kingdom and the United States and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South) by the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Iraq, Libya and Cuba.[2]


Cairo Agreement of 1972[edit]

The fighting was short-lived; the war ended 23 days later, on 19 October,[4] by a ceasefire.[4] This was followed by the Cairo Agreement of 28 October,[4] which put forward a plan to unify the two countries in a "republican, national and democratic" state, based on "free and direct" elections.[4][2]

Hostilities in late 1970s[edit]

South Yemen instigated and funded a broad-based opposition movement in the north, the National Democratic Front (NDF), during the mid-1970s.[7]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Foreign Intervention by Cuba" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 22, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Gause, Gregory, Saudi-Yemeni relations: domestic structures and foreign influence, Columbia University Press, 1990, page 98
  3. ^ a b c d "32. South Yemen (1967-1990)".
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Couland, Jacques (1993). Genèse et étapes de l'unité yéménite (facsimile). Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée (in French). Vol. 67. pp. 79–93. doi:10.3406/remmm.1993.1589. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  5. ^ Lagadec, Jean (April 1974). La fin du conflit yéménite. Revue française de science politique (in French). Vol. 24. pp. 344–355. doi:10.3406/rfsp.1974.418679.
  6. ^ Cooper 2017, p. 37
  7. ^ "Yemen - the age of imperialism | Britannica".


  • Cooper, Tom (2017). Hot Skies Over Yemen, Volume 1: Aerial Warfare Over the South Arabian Peninsula, 1962-1994. Solihull, UK: Helion & Company Publishing. ISBN 978-1-912174-23-2.