First Yemenite War
Part of the Cold War and the Arab Cold War

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
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).[1]


South Arabian League (SAL) rebels attacked positions in eastern South Yemen, arriving from Saudi Arabia on February 20, 1972.[2] The rebels were defeated by South Yemen government troops on February 24, 1972, with some 175 rebels killed during the military hostilities.[2] Prime Minister Ali Nasir Muhammad survived an assassination attempt by SAL rebels on May 22, 1972.[2] Six persons were sentenced to death for plotting to overthrow the government on July 9, 1972.[2] Saudi Arabia continued to oppose South Yemen and supported the Northern Yemeni troops in the upcoming struggle.


The war, initiated by North Yemen,[3] started on 26 September 1972,[3][4] the tenth anniversary of the start of the North Yemen Civil War.[3] 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.[5] 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.[1]


Cairo Agreement of 1972

The fighting was short-lived; the war ended 23 days later, on 19 October,[3] by a ceasefire.[3] This was followed by the Cairo Agreement of 28 October,[3] which put forward a plan to unify the two countries in a "republican, national and democratic" state, based on "free and direct" elections.[3][1]

Hostilities in late 1970s

Main articles: NDF Rebellion and Yemenite War of 1979

South Yemen instigated and funded a broad-based opposition movement in the north, the National Democratic Front (NDF), during the mid-1970s.[6]

See also



  1. ^ a b c Gause, Gregory, Saudi-Yemeni relations: domestic structures and foreign influence, Columbia University Press, 1990, page 98
  2. ^ a b c d "32. South Yemen (1967-1990)".
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Couland, Jacques (1993). Genèse et étapes de l'unité yéménite (facsimile) (in French). Vol. 67. pp. 79–93. doi:10.3406/remmm.1993.1589. Retrieved 18 December 2019. ((cite book)): |periodical= ignored (help)
  4. ^ Lagadec, Jean (April 1974). La fin du conflit yéménite (in French). Vol. 24. pp. 344–355. doi:10.3406/rfsp.1974.418679. ((cite book)): |periodical= ignored (help)
  5. ^ Cooper 2017, p. 37
  6. ^ "Yemen - the age of imperialism | Britannica".