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

The Hanish Islands (Arabic: جزر حنيش, Tigrinya: ደሴታት ሃኒሽ) are an island group in the Red Sea. Some 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 some parts of the 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.


French-built lighthouse on the Hanish Islands
French-built lighthouse on the Hanish Islands

The Hanish Islands were claimed by the Ottoman Empire, a claim abandoned by Turkey in 1923.[2] In June 1915 the islands were occupied by Britain to "forestall the Italians".[3] Later they were administered by the Italian colony of Eritrea until 1941 when the Italian colonies surrendered to the British army.[2] Britain subsequently awarded Eritrea to Ethiopia. Throughout the 1970s, Ethiopia and Yemen claimed the islands.[citation needed]

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.[4]

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, 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.[5]

See also


  1. ^ "International Maritime Boundary". Archived from the original on 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2006-07-17.
  2. ^ a b Dzurek, Daniel J (1996). "Eritrea-Yemen Dispute Over the Hanish Islands". IBRU: Centre for Borders Research.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Killion, Tom (1998). Historical Dictionary of Eritrea. The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-3437-5.
  5. ^ "Coalition forces capture Yemeni islands from Houthis". www.aljazeera.com.

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