In its first recorded involvement in the Yemeni war, Qatar has sent around 1,000 ground troops to the war torn country.
The Doha-based Al Jazeera television news channel reported Qatar’s contribution to the Saudi-led operations in Yemen, on Monday.
1,000 Qatari soldiers, backed by 200 armoured vehicles and 30 Apache helicopters had been deployed, according to Al Jazeera. However, the Qatari foreign ministry made no immediate comment on the report.
Al Jazeera quoted military sources, who said that Qatari troops are currently on their way to Yemen, preparing to join a new push on Iranian-backed Houthi militias in the capital Sanaa.
Qatar’s involvement comes only days after a Houthi missile strike killed 64 coalition soldiers, including 45 Emiratis, 10 Saudis and five Bahrainis.
Houthis said they fired a rocket at a Marib weapons cache camp, in which dozens of Emirati, Yemeni and Bahraini soldiers were stationed. The Houthi rockets allegedly destroyed a number of Apache helicopters and armed vehicles as well. Residents in Marib told Reuters that they saw fire raging at the camp along with plumes of smoke.
Reuters reports that a Qatar-based defence source alleged the number of 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.
Jean-Marc Rickli, Assistant professor at the Department of King's College London and teaching at the military's Qatar National Defence College, told Reuters, "it is the first time that Qatari ground forces have been deployed in Yemen. So far, the Qatari contribution was only through its Air Force."
"This force will probably take part in the overall war effort to retake the capital after the coalition successfully recapture Aden last month," he added.
Local Yemeni official on the other hand said Qatari troops "crossed al Wadia border post" between Saudi Arabia and Yemen and were heading to the oil rich province of Marib, east of 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.
"Final preparations are being made for a decisive battle, before moving on to liberate Sana'a," al Hayat said.
Saudi Arabia sees Houthis as proxies for Iran, the Kingdom accuses Iran of trying to spread its influence into Arab states including Syria and Yemen.
Following a call from Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to “save Yemen” from Houthi aggression, Saudi-led military operations started in late March.
The UN has declared the situation in Yemen to be a level-three humanitarian emergency, the highest on its scale, after about 80 percent of the country’s population fell into dire need of humanitarian aid.
Twenty million people in the country are in need of aid, 13 million are facing food shortages and 9.4 million are having difficulties accessing drinking water.
A ship carrying enough UN aid to feed 180,000 people for a month docked at the Yemeni port of Aden last month, having previously being prevented from doing so for almost four weeks, World Food Programme spokesman Peter Smerdon said.
"It's the first WFP chartered ship to berth in the port since the conflict erupted in late March," Smerdon said. "We have additional ships chartered which are on standby heading towards Aden carrying more food and fuel."