Hanish Islands

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

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


The Hanish Islands were claimed by the Ottoman Empire, a claim abandoned by Turkey in 1923. In June 1915 the islands were occupied by Britain to "Forestall the Italians".[2] From that point forward they were administered by the Italian colony of Eritrea until 1941. In that year, 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 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.[3]

In 1991, Eritrea gained independence and, in 1996, attempted to exercise sovereignty over the archipelago, starting 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.

During the 2015 Yemeni Civil War, the archipelago was the scene of intense fighting between forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthi insurgents on one side and forces loyal to acting president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, backed by Gulf Arab coalition forces, on the other.[4]

See also


  1. "International Maritime Boundary". Archived from the original on 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2006-07-17.
  2. Baldry, John (1976). "Anglo-Italian Rivalry in Yemen and ʿAsīr 1900-1934". Die Welt des Islams. 17 (1/4): 155–193. doi:10.2307/1570344. ISSN 0043-2539. JSTOR 1570344.
  3. Killion, Tom (1998). Historical Dictionary of Eritrea. The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-3437-5.
  4. "Coalition forces capture Yemeni islands from Houthis". www.aljazeera.com.

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