Dubai: Gulf Arab nations are expanding the ground war in Yemen, pouring more troops into the country to defeat Al Houthi rebels they say are backed by regional rival Iran.
About 1,000 troops from Qatar entered the country on Sunday from the Wadia post on Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen, the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television reported. The soldiers, backed by armoured vehicles, missiles and missile launchers, were headed to the oil-rich central Marib province, Al Jazeera said, citing its correspondent at the border.
This would be Qatari ground troops first reported involvement in a Saudi-backed offensive against the Al Houthi group.
Information on whether the Qatari soldiers have entered Yemen yet have been conflicting.
Military sources told Reuters that Qatari forces were on their way to Yemen and preparing to join a new push on Al Houthi positions in Sana’a — though they said the soldiers had not yet entered the Arabian Peninsula country.
Qatari pilots have joined months of Saudi-led air strikes on the Al Houthis, an Iran-allied militia group that seized Sana’a last year, advanced across the country and forced President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile in March.
A Qatar-based defence source said the number of Qatari troops was less than 1,000. “They are as of now not deployed in Yemen but in Saudi Arabia to protect the border,” the source added.
But a local Yemeni official in the oil-producing Marib province east of Sana’a said the Qatari contingent had “crossed Al Wadia border post” between Saudi Arabia and Yemen and were heading to Marib — where Hadi loyalists have been preparing for an offensive on Sana’a.
The Saudi-owned Al Hayat newspaper said on Monday that Saudi Arabia had also sent “huge reinforcements” of its elite forces, along with Qatari troops, to Marib.