Sana’a and Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—A coordinated ground operation including forces from the Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition, the Yemeni army, and volunteers loyal to Yemen’s government will soon be launched to liberate areas of the country still under the control of the Iran-backed Houthi movement, a source close to the government said.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, the source, who requested anonymity, said coalition forces were meanwhile continuing to arrive in the central Ma’rib province in preparation for an “imminent” operation to retake the capital Sana’a from the Houthis.
The Shi’ite group, backed by Iran and forces loyal to Yemen’s ousted ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, took over the capital in September of 2014 and then spread to other areas of the country. The Houthis then launched a coup in February deposing Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and his government.
A Saudi-led air campaign was launched against the Houthis in March after Hadi requested Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies intervene in the country. Coalition ground forces have been arriving on the country since the liberation of the southern port city of Aden last month, but this would mark the first time a ground operation has been launched in the country since the conflict began.
So far, “thousands” of ground troops from the coalition, government loyalists, and the Yemeni army, as well as tanks, 30 military vehicles, and eight Apache helicopters have headed to Ma’rib in preparation for the assault on the capital, the source said.
Speaking in the Sudanese capital Khartoum during an official visit, President Hadi on Saturday said the war in Yemen was “based on stopping Iranian expansion in the region.”
Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin meanwhile visited Cairo on Saturday where he met with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shokri.
Yassin told Asharq Al-Awsat Egypt and Yemen have signed an agreement to “help train Yemeni diplomatic cadres in Cairo in order to create a new diplomatic community in Yemen in the fastest possible time.”
He added that Egyptian officials had also refused to meet with aides of former president Saleh due to their “not being serious about finding a solution to the crisis” in Yemen.
“Saleh’s aides simply want to use such meetings as ‘photo opportunities’ and to be seen with officials from different countries in order to influence public opinion and give the impression that these officials welcome their point of view and that of Saleh and his party [the General People’s Congress],” Yassin said.
Egypt will also be sending planes to Yemen loaded with humanitarian supplies and medical teams. Wounded Yemenis caught up in the conflict will also be transported to Cairo for treatment.
Sawsan Abu-Husain contributed additional reporting from Cairo.