Saudi-led coalition ground forces help recapture Yemeni military base from Houthis

People seek cover from rising dust as a Qatari military cargo plane carrying aid lands at the international airport of Yemen's southern port city of Aden August 1, 2015. © Stringer
Hundreds of Saudi-led coalition troops deployed in the southern Yemeni port of Aden with tanks and armored vehicles, have reportedly allowed forces loyal to deposed president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to seize full control of the country’s largest military base from the Houthi rebels.

“The national army and the popular resistance have completed control of the al-Anad military and air base," a pro-Hadi operation commander, Brigadier-General Fadel Hassan, told Reuters by telephone. He added that dozens of Houthis were killed and captured in clashes, and hundreds fled the site of the battle.

Houthi rebels, who previously claimed to have been in control of the military base, have not yet commented on the latest assault, which began after hundreds of armored vehicles supplied by Saudi Arabia arrived in the port city of Aden.

A total of 1,500 troops, most of them from the United Arab Emirates, had reached Aden over the weekend, according to the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat newspaper. A military source confirmed the arrival of reinforcements, tanks and armored vehicles to AFP.

Saudi and Emirati troops were indeed assisting anti-Houthi forces on the ground by “operating many of the tanks and sophisticated military equipment,” because too few Yemeni troops were capable of operating such machinery, AP reported, citing military officials.

It is the biggest military contingent of Gulf States sent to Yemen as the coalition has so far preferred to carry out airstrikes against the Houthis without involving land operations.

Amid the ongoing war, Yemen is facing a serious humanitarian crisis. According to the UN, more than 1,600 civilians were killed, over 3,800 injured and more than a million were displaced. The UN registered many cases of civil infrastructure destruction and expressed its preoccupation about constrained access to humanitarian aid.

The UN has called on all sides involved to conclude a truce but all attempts have so far failed. On July 11, Saudi-led airstrikes violated the ceasefire just an hour after the truce came onto effect.

READ MORE: Saudi airstrikes violate ‘unconditional humanitarian pause’ in Yemen

Tensions in Yemen escalated after Shia President Saleh was deposed in 2012 and his Houthi supporters, reportedly aided by Iran, eventually seized the capital city, Sana'a, last year. Houthi forces then advanced from Sana'a towards the south, seizing large parts of Yemen, and sending the current Sunni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile.

In late March, a Saudi Arabian-led coalition responded with airstrikes in order to stop Houthi advances and reinstate Hadi back in power. However, there was no significant progress without foreign ground force involvement, until Hadi’s government announced the “liberation” of Aden last month.