800 Egypt troops boost Yemen force

Updated 11 September 2015
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800 Egypt troops boost Yemen force

SANAA: As many as 800 Egyptian soldiers arrived in Yemen late on Tuesday, Egyptian security sources said, swelling the ranks of a Gulf Arab military contingent which aims to rout the Iran-allied Houthi group after a five-month civil war.
It was the first reported deployment of ground troops there by Egypt, which has one of the Arab world's strongest armies.
A coalition led by Saudi Arabia has scored major gains against the militia and its allies in Yemen's army, backing a push by Yemeni fighters to seize much of the country's south and now setting its sights on the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa.
Four Egyptian units of between 150 to 200 troops along with tanks and transport vehicles arrived in Yemen late on Tuesday, two Egyptian security sources said.
"We have sent these forces as part of Egypt's prominent role in this alliance ... the alliance fights for the sake of our brotherly Arab states, and the death of any Egyptian soldier would be an honour and considered martyrdom for the sake of innocent people," a senior Egyptian military source said.
Yemeni officials put the number of foreign troops from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar at least around 2,000, while Qatari-owned Al Jazeera TV said at least 10,000 foreign soldiers had arrived, including 1,000 from the emirate.
They are part of a force preparing to eventually assault the capital, which the Houthis seized last year.
The alliance sees the campaign as a fight against the influence of arch-rival Iran in their neighbourhood, but the Houthis say they are fighting a revolution against a corrupt government, which they drove into Saudi exile in late March.
More than 4,500 people have been killed by fighting and air strikes since the beginning of the conflict, which has also unleashed disease and hunger in the impoverished country.
Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri, a spokesman for the coalition, told Reuters its forces were focusing on overcoming Houthi resistance in Yemen's central and southern provinces, pounding their positions from the air across the country before beginning any thrust towards Sanaa.
"Before you start the ground operation, you have to have the prerequisite of the air campaign," al-Asseri said.
"I don't want to talk about Sanaa because the military issue is in phases ... Now we are talking of Marib and Taiz."
Residents reported heavy air raids on military bases throughout Sanaa on Wednesday, the latest in a series of daily assaults which fishermen said killed 20 Indian nationals off a Red Sea port on Tuesday. At least 15 other civilians were killed throughout the country on Tuesday, medics said.
The alliance has increased air strikes on Sanaa and other parts of Yemen since Friday, when a Houthi missile attack killed at least 60 Saudi, Bahraini and United Arab Emirates soldiers at a military camp in central Marib province.

(Additional reporting by Mohammed Ghobari and Angus McDowall)

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Aden: Turning point

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Aden: Turning point

The liberation of Aden is a major step in the war against extremism. In the kernel of that victory, lies the successful return of the government leaders who had escaped in March when the city was overrun. However, it is extremely morale boosting and gives the populace much hope that official forces are making an impact.
However, it is premature to see this as anything more than the beginning of the end.
The straggler groups from the retreating Houthis could not only be dangerous in their do-or-die stand but could well booby-trap the city’s streets and buildings and the mop-up operation in the aftermath will have to literally be taken step by step.
It is also important to remember that the strongholds can cause great harm by using shoot-and-scoot tactics
While President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s presence in Aden is salutary he must not just be seen to act but must act administratively to restore the confidence of the Yemeni people.
These past four months have seen bitter fighting and left a capital bruised in the realms of security and safety. The pockets of resistance can still be of danger and the loyalists will have to be careful that in clearing the city they do not fall victim to booby traps.
The global community also has to strengthen the government and give it a booster shot. The Houthis are not pushovers and have the capability of regrouping and rearming.
The one other flank that has to be contained is that of recruiting the disaffected or the simply misled youth that is lured in to becoming child soldiers.
Although one cannot predict the possibility of the Abdullah Saleh-led factions sitting down at the table in the general interest of the country and opening negotiations, the efforts to play mediator cannot stop even as Aden is re-introduced to normalcy.
With the city of Taiz as the next objective, the coalition has certainly scored a crippling blow on the rebels and put them on the backfoot. But peace as they would want it and what the Saudi-led forces seek and have fought for is still a bridge away.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

Sudan ‘blocks’ UN access in Darfur fighting areas

Updated 29 min 46 sec ago
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Sudan ‘blocks’ UN access in Darfur fighting areas

KHARTOUM: Sudanese forces in Darfur have blocked UN personnel from reaching areas where fighting has displaced hundreds of civilians, the UN said Thursday, as it continues to draw down peacekeepers in the war-torn region.
Hundreds of civilians have been newly displaced in the Jebel Marra mountains of Darfur where fighting intensified this month between Sudanese forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid rebel group.
“The continued fighting is deplorable and should stop immediately, while unhindered access should be granted to enable humanitarian aid agencies to reach the affected population,” Jeremiah Mamabolo, the head of the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), said in a statement.
“Attempts by UNAMID to verify the situation on the ground have been blocked, with government forces denying mission personnel access to areas of conflict,” the statement said.
The latest fighting in Jebel Marra region comes despite a cease-fire unilaterally announced by Khartoum in March, applying to Darfur and another conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
The clashes have intensified at a time when the United Nations is looking to further scale back its peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said earlier in June that the latest plan calls for the number of troops to be reduced from 8,735 to 4,050 by June 2019, while cutting the police force to 1,870 from its current level of 2,500.
The Security Council agreed last year to trim the UNAMID mission — once among the biggest and costliest of all peace operations — as the United States pressed for budget cuts to peacekeeping.
UN peacekeepers now plan to focus their efforts on Jebel Marra area where fighting continues.

The council is scheduled to vote on June 28 on the latest proposed cuts to UNAMID.
The conflict in Darfur erupted in 2003 when ethnic African rebels took up arms against Sudan’s government, accusing it of marginalization. Khartoum now insists that the conflict has ended in Darfur.
Deployed in 2007, UNAMID once had 16,000 blue helmets on the ground tasked with protecting civilians.
Last year, the council agreed to a two-stage drawdown that reduced the number of troops from 13,000 to 11,400 and then to 8,735 by the end of June this year.
The number of police dropped from 3,150 to 2,888 by January and 2,500 by June.
The United Nations says that over the years the conflict has killed about 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million, with many still living in sprawling camps.