An Egyptian military force of 800 soldiers reportedly arrived in Yemen late on Tuesday to join the ranks of the Saudi-led coalition forces fighting the Houthis, Egyptian security sources told Reuters on Wednesday.
There has been ambiguity surrounding previous local media reports about the ground military intervention in Yemen, as Egyptian government representatives remained tight-lipped amid rumors that 3000 ground troops were recently deployed to Makha, which overlooks the strategic Bab al-Mandab area.
Four units of between 150 to 200 troops, along with tanks and transport vehicles arrived in Yemen late on Tuesday, two Egyptian security sources told Reuters-affiliated Aswat Masreya.
A senior Egyptian military source said the forces were sent “as part of Egypt’s prominent role in this alliance,” which “fights for the sake of our brotherly Arab states.”
The source added, “The death of any Egyptian soldier would be an honor and considered martyrdom for the sake of innocent people.”
However, Press Secretary for the Yemeni Presidency, Mokhtar al-Rahby told Mada Masr that, “so far the Yemeni presidency hasn’t received any news about Egyptian forces on Yemeni soil. There are Saudi and Qatari preparations to begin engagement with armed militias. We’re not certain about the Egyptian situation, but Egypt remains part of the Arab Coalition that might intervene at any moment.”
Spokesperson for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, Ahmed Abu Zeid, declined to comment on the news.
Earlier on Tuesday, the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported that a widespread military operation was in the works in Eastern Yemen. The newspaper added that the taskforce joining the anticipated operation to liberate areas under the control of Houthis includes coalition forces from Egypt, Qatar and other countries that “would arrive in areas of Yemen other than Ma’rib within days, to provide on the ground logistical support to the forces.”
The sources declined to name the regions where these forces will purportedly land, adding that “they will have specific fighting goals and will largely contribute to liberating Yemeni regions from the hands of the Houthis.”
Meanwhile, spokesperson for the coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assery, told Reuters that their forces were focused on overcoming Houthi resistance in Yemen’s central and southern provinces by a “prerequisite airs campaign,” before starting the ground operation towards Sanaa.
Heavy air strikes on Houthi sites in Sanaa have been reported throughout this week. On Tuesday, fishermen said raids killed 20 Indian nationals off a Red Sea port, while at least 15 other civilians were killed throughout the country on the same day, Reuters reported.
On August 1, Egyptian authorities agreed to extend involvement in military operations in Yemen by another six months, in support of the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting Shia Houthi groups since March.
Egypt’s military confirmed providing the “necessary elements for the forces” in the Yemeni conflict for a further six months, or until the objectives are met, in order to uphold national security for Arab Gulf states, the Red Sea region, and the Bab al-Mandab Strait.
Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (with the exception of Oman) are leading the military offensive in Yemen, claiming that Shia Houthi rebels seized control of the state in a coup (from September 2014 until February 2015). They allege the takeover was orchestrated by Iran in an attempt to expand its influence in the region.
At the behest of Saudi Arabia’s ruling dynasty, Egypt joined Operation Decisive Storm on March 26, and continued to lend military support throughout subsequent operations, Restoring Hope and Golden Arrow. At the time, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed that Egypt was only participating with naval and air forces. In an April speech at the Military Academy, he said, “An announcement will be made if any other forces are deployed in the operation.”