CAIRO - A large force of southern Yemeni resistance fighters, backed by Saudi-led coalition armored fighting vehicles, has reportedly pushed Houthi rebels and their allies out of three southern provinces, including the strategic al-Anad air base.
Arab media report that the 3,000 ground troops, including 1,500 from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and 1,500 trained Yemenis, along with battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, mark a notable escalation in the Saudi-led coalition's involvement in Yemen.
Amateur video showed southern militiamen, supported by the Saudi-led coalition, firing into the air to celebrate the capture of Houtha, the capital of the south Yemeni province of Lahej. Arab media report the coalition and its allies now control three southern provinces.
The Houthi's al-Masira TV, however, reported that Saudi-led coalition forces had been pushed out of Ma'arib province farther north. VOA could not independently confirm the claim.
Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah told Arab media that forces loyal to his internationally-recognized government have already taken control of the southern port city of Aden, along with the strategic al-Anad air base north of the city, and are moving to capture other areas:
He said the battle has now moved from Aden, on to Lahej province, with its important Anad air base, and his forces are focusing on a strategic triangle from the city of Aden, north to Taiz and Da'alah provinces, which hopefully will soon be liberated.
The prime minister insisted that his government was hoping that all parties would come to the negotiating table and put down their arms.
Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV reported that the United Nations special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Sheikh Ahmed, met with Yemeni leaders now based in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, calling on all militias to apply U.N. Security Council resolutions and “pull their forces out of Yemeni cities.”
United Arab Emirates-based political analyst Theodore Karasik told VOA that both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have contributed ground forces to help the internationally-recognized government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi return from exile to the south of the country.
"The end game with this mixed force of Saudis and Emiratis is to carve out a portion of southern Yemen so that the Hadi government can solidify its gains and restore order," he explained.
Arab media reported that President Hadi met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo Wednesday, “to discuss the current military operations inside his country.” Hadi joined dozens of foreign leaders in Egypt to attend celebrations for the grand opening of the Suez Canal's new expansion.