Riyadh and Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Forces of the Saudi-led coalition targeting the Houthis in Yemen are regrouping in the central Yemeni province of Ma’rib, following Friday’s deadly attack by Houthi rebels which killed dozens of coalition troops.
Coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday reinforcements are being sent to Ma’rib to make up for the soldiers lost. He added that the coalition’s ground and air operations were continuing as before.
“Such attacks are to be expected as part of any military operation. But what happened [on Friday] will act as a spur to their [the soldiers’] comrades, who will work harder than ever to achieve what their martyred comrades wished to achieve,” Asiri said.
Friday’s attack was the worst for the coalition in terms of death toll since the conflict began, and the deadliest day in the UAE’s military history, as the Gulf country lost 45 soldiers in the attack. Asiri added that 10 Saudi troops were also killed.
The coalition has been targeting the Houthis since March, seeking to reinstate internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and his government, whom the Iran-backed Houthis deposed in a February coup.
The coalition began ground operations towards the end of August. Ground forces from the coalition have been present in Yemen since July, after government loyalists recaptured the southern city of Aden, but up until August the campaign had focused on providing air cover for the loyalists without introducing ground troops directly into the conflict.
The coalition is now planning to retake Ma’rib from the Houthis via a ground operation in which forces from the UAE and Saudi Arabia will participate.
Following the liberation of the central province, coalition forces backed by government loyalists will head to the capital Sana’a, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of Ma’rib. Sana’a has been under Houthi control since September 2014.
Meanwhile, on Saturday the Riyadh-based NGO the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Works began the second stage of a joint humanitarian relief project with the United Nations, aimed at helping Yemenis affected by the conflict.
In a statement, the Center said the second stage of the project had garnered some 22 million US dollars in pledges and aimed to provide medical services for more than 7.5 million Yemenis, particularly women and children, in cooperation with the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO).
The first stage of the project, which garnered 1.7 million dollars in pledges, helps farmers by supplying equipment and land as part of initiatives to help rebuild Yemen, which is the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country.
The project is the result of an agreement signed in April between Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Naif, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, and the UN.