After heavy losses, anti-Houthi coalition vows to retaliate
LONDON - A week after suffering its biggest losses in terms of casualties, the Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting Houthis in Yemen intensified the bombardment of Sana’a in retaliation, while reinforcements of Gulf troops was intended to support pro-government fighters in a new push into the Yemeni capital.
Iran-allied Houthis killed 60 members of the Saudi-led alliance, the majority of whom were Emiratis, when a Soviet-era Tochka missile hit a weapons depository in the central province of Marib on September 4th.
A day after the attack, the pro-government coalition hit Houthi targets across Yemen, including in Sana’a. Qatar and Saudi Arabia on September 7th sent major reinforcements in support of government loyalists.
According to Qatar’s Al Jazeera news channel, approximately 1,000 Qatari soldiers and 200 armoured vehicles were deployed to join the coalition in Marib. The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper said Saudi Arabia had also sent “huge reinforcements” of elite forces, along with Qatari troops to Marib. “Final preparations are being made for a decisive battle, before moving on to liberate Sana’a,” the Saudi-owned newspaper said.
Al Jazeera reported that the number of forces deployed by the alliance had risen to 10,000. A military source told Reuters news agency that Qatari troops were on their way to Yemen and were to join a new push on Houthi positions in Sana’a. This was the first reported deployment of Qatari ground troops since the start of military operations in March.
The preparations for the push into Sana’a has seen a spike in non-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) troops in Yemen, with reports of Egyptian personnel and the arrival of 6,000 Sudanese set to join the coalition.
“Our revenge shall not take long,” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan told local media, vowing to hit back at the Houthis. “We will press ahead until we purge Yemen of the scum,” he said during a meeting with Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
“These events will not make the UAE back down from its humanitarian obligation towards its Arab brothers,” said Mohammed, “We are supporting you (Hadi) until the end. We have a common history and ask Allah to achieve victory very soon.”
The September 4th attack underscored the human sacrifice associated with war.
The incident occurred in Marib governorate in central Yemen near the border with Saudi Arabia, when, according to UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, a Houthi missile struck an ammunition depot.
Officials from the media office of the Iran-allied Houthi rebels confirmed that they fired a Tochka missile in the area, the Associated Press reported.
The bodies of the Emirati soldiers were flown to the UAE capital the day after the tragedy. A special military ceremony at the airport honoured the dead.
“Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al- Nahyan this evening mourned the Emirati gallant soldiers who fell in the line of duty in Marib in Yemen in defence of the right and justice and in support of the aggrieved people during ‘Operation Restore Hope’, under the Arab alliance to support the people of Yemen and their legitimate government,” a statement by the UAE’s Ministry of Presidential Affairs said.
The UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition that launched an air war against the rebels on March 26th. The Houthis seized Sana’a in September 2014 and continued taking over parts of the rest of the country, which resulted in the UN-recognised government fleeing to Aden and then Saudi Arabia.
Gulf Arab countries, led by the Saudis, intervened to try to restore it to power. The fighting has resulted in the death of more than 4,500 people, including many civilians.