Local officials are saying that the Saudi-led coalition has begun “limited” ground operations in Yemen.
The coalition began aerial intervention against the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group in control of Yemen’s capital Sanaa in late March; however, it has refrained until now from confronting Houthi advances on the ground, notably on the port city of Aden in the south.
On Sunday, troops from the UAE and Sudan were reportedly involved in clashes in Aden. Coalition airstrikes on the city’s airport are also claimed.
A source said the ground troops were specially-trained to deal with Ansar Allah snipers.
Officials supporting President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi, forced to flee by Ansar Allah in February, said at least 20 Arab coalition troops landed in Aden on Sunday on a “reconnaissance” mission. One said, “A limited coalition force entered Aden and another force is on its way.”
Coalition spokesman Ahmed al-Asiri denied the reports, “There are no foreign forces in Aden but coalition continues to help fight against the Houthi militia.”
The Levantine Group assesses that the “normalization” of ground manoeuvres “will likely lead to an increase in troop presence as well as a broadening of their mandate” in Aden, with offensive operations against Ansar Allah positions. However, it believes that it is unlikely the operations will extend to other areas of Yemen, apart from the border with Saudi Arabia.
On Friday, Saudi officials said three Saudi troops and “dozens” of Ansar Allah fighters were killed in a Houthi attack near the border town of Najran.
Ansar Allah consolidated power in Sanaa in February when it forced the flight of President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi, who tried to set up an alternative Government in Aden. Hadi has now left the country and is in Saudi Arabia.
Despite Saudi-led bombing which has killed hundreds of civilians, Ansar Allah has claimed more territory and bases in the last six weeks.