Second Emirates-Yemen War
Battle of qishn
Emirates offensive at Qishn, 1974
Date December 12, 1973
Location United Emirates, Yemen
Result Emirates victory
Emirates flag United Emirates South yemen flag Yemen
Commanders and leaders
Emirates flag King Hussein I
Emirates flag Hassan Altani
South yemen flag
Emirates flag 101,296 South yemen flag 113,217
Casualties and losses
Emirates flag 26,290 South yemen flag 34,188

The Second Emirates-Yemen War was a conflict between the United Emirates and South Yemen.


This conflict arose from the First Emirates-Yemen War of 1968-1969. Four months of fighting led to a status quo and much greater tension between both countries. Tensions began to arise in the 1970s, mainly due to the harboring of Islamic extremists in South Yemen. Informal talks and conferences held in 1973 resulted in no action by Yemen to fix the situation and a general condemnation of their government in the Emirates. So, in December 12, 1973 war was declared. By then both nations had rearmed and were preparing for war, but no action was taken. In May, 1974 intelligence from the Emirates military and AMTACT led to the conclusion of an imminent Yemeni invasion within the coming months. So, on the 13th of July Emirates tanks and armored vehicles rolled into South Yemen.

The War

First Emirates offensive

Massive planning and security resulted in the pre-emptive attack being of total surprise to the Yemenis. But, the Yemenis were prepared for war, and some analysts argued even more than the Emirates. Within four days they were deep into Yemen and on the 18th were at the outskirts of Al Ghaydah. The offensive ground to a halt, and soon there was a siege of Al Ghaydah which many would later compare to the Battle of Stalingrad. There was bitter combat for each floor of every house. Within two months front lines in the city had shifted 7 times but there was no clear winner. Only until the arrival of Emirates snipers by mid-September helped the Emirates; they were able to hold back Yemeni troops and allow Emirati troops to overrun their positions. By the 28th of September Emirati troops were at the outskirts of Qishn, where they again had to besiege the town, for about six weeks. They eventually won, but the weary troops decided to set up defensive positions there to allow supplies to reach them. Soon though, the Yemenis were ready to strike back.

First Yemeni counter-offensive

Emirates troops, 1974

Emirates during the 69 days

On October 3 several Yemeni divisions attacked Emirati troops stationed at Qishn. Six days of fighting led to a conclusive Yemeni victory. Soon they were rolling across the desert and by October 17 had reclaimed Al Ghaydah. By the 20th they had crossed the border and on the 25th were at Salalah, which they laid siege to for 69 days before finally taking it. After many battles in the desert the Yemenis had made it to the abandoned city of Palmyra (FW) in early April 1975. Soon though, the tide would turn for them.

Spring offensive

On April 11, fresh Emirati divisions began to push Yemeni troops southwards. They inched their way down the country and by the war’s first anniversary they hadn’t yet crossed the border into Yemen. A surprise dawn attack took Al Ghaydah again in just 7 hours and soon they were moving along much faster. But, intelligence reports found that Qishn was very heavily defended and the Army commanders decided to move through the north of Yemen, across the Rub al Khali. The city of Tarim was taken on September 16 but the push toward Al Mukalla was slowed down by heavy artillery bombing and stretched lines of supply. The outskirts of Al Mukalla were reached by early October but by then the Yemenis were preparing another offensive.

Final offensives

Yemeni troops attacking emirates positions

Yemeni troops on the attack, 1975

Yemen’s October offensive was believed by many to be a decisive moment in the war and one that could win the war for them. But they were to commit a few tactical mistakes. At the town of Sayhut the Yemenis had the opportunity to entrap part of the Emirates army. The Yemeni commander, believing it to be bait as part of a greater trap allowed them to escape. Soon the Yemenis were advancing steadily across the desert but a fear of being cut off from their supply lines led the Yemeni forces to stop just across the border. Meanwhile the Emirates troops had regrouped and on December 21 launched a swift counter-attack. The Yemenis were in a wild, disorganized retreat and were advancing faster than the Emirates forces were. The rapid Yemeni retreat allowed them to regroup 17 miles south of Al Ghaydah and ground the offensive to a halt. By then both sides had agreed to a temporary “halt of offensives” as they wanted to end the war. After a few weeks of discussion a ceasefire was agreed to on January 26, 1976.


Though fighting was over on January 26, 1976 the war was not officially over. By then Emirates troops were still occupying parts of Yemen, including Al Ghaydah. Tensions were still very high and Yemen condemned the “foreign occupation” of their territory. It was only until June 1986 that a peace treaty was agreed to and that Yemen officially conceded said territories to the United Emirates.

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