Qatar sends 1,000 ground troops into Yemen fight
Qatar has deployed an estimated 1,000 troops to Yemen, the Doha-based Al Jazeera channel revealed on Monday.
The troops will join the Saudi-led coalition in fighting Houthi militiamen and allied forces of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who seized control of large swathes of Yemen last year and forced the country’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.
The Qataris will be based in the central province of Marib, according to Al Jazeera, which was the scene of a deadly Houthi attack on Friday that killed 60 Gulf soldiers – 45 from the UAE, 10 from Saudi Arabia, and five from Bahrain.
Al Jazeera reported that the Qatari forces were backed by over 200 armoured vehicles and 30 Apache combat helicopters as they entered Yemen through the country’s northern border with Saudi Arabia.
The Qatari television network said that more troops are expected to be deployed by the Gulf state, who will fight to win control of Jawf for the coalition.
Friday’s attack on Gulf troops was the deadliest the UAE has ever experienced and was the heaviest amount of casualties suffered in Yemen by the coalition since it was formed in March. Abu Dhabi declared three days of mourning as the bodies of their fallen soldiers were returned home to be laid to rest.
Emirati authorities have not released the names of the soldiers killed and on Sunday a person was arrested in Abu Dhabi for publishing a casualty list, which they claimed included university students who were likely completing national service. Middle East Eye has previously reported that conscripts have been among those deployed by the UAE to Yemen.
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed has pledged to avenge the deaths of his soldiers.
“Our revenge shall not take long,” he said, according to local media. “We will press ahead until we purge Yemen of the scum,” he added, in a likely reference to Houthi militiamen and their allies.
The Saudi-led coalition wants to reinstall the exiled Hadi and push back Houthi militiamen, who Arab Gulf states view as being backed by regional rival Iran. The Houthis have admitted that Iran is supportive of their movement, but have denied fighting as a proxy on behalf of Tehran - the Saada-based group has long complained of economic and political marginalisation in Yemen.
The Gulf troops were killed on Friday after the Houthis fired a rocket into their base in Marib causing a huge explosion.
On social media Qataris have expressed support for their troops entering the Yemen war, on the hashtag “Qatar’s army is going to crush the Houthis”.
With a local population of around 300,000, one prominent Qatari Twitter user pointed to the scale of their country’s deployment in Yemen.
More than 4,500 people have been killed and 23,000 injured by fighting on the ground and in Saudi-led air strikes since March. Both the Saudi coalition and the Houthi militia have been accused of committing war crimes by human rights groups.
Aid groups have warned that the Arab world's poorest nation is on the brink of famine because of the conflict. Before the coalition began their military campaign 16 million Yemenis required some form of humanitarian aid – that number has since risen to 20 million, according to Oxfam.