Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry has confirmed that Egypt is ready to deploy ground troops in Yemen ‘if needed’.
The Foreign Minister’s statements came as Arab Foreign Ministers met for an Arab League summit in Egypt’s red sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh.
The confirmation comes hours after Saudi Arabia declared that Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have all joined a coalition to protect ‘the legitimate Yemeni government’ and its people.
Earlier on Thursday, Egypt’s state media Al-Ahram reported that Egypt is coordinating with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries in the “Firmness/Decisive Storm” operation. The military support may include aerial, naval or ground support if needed, said Al-Ahram.
Following the announcement, Turkey, which has had rocky relations with Egypt and some Gulf countries, declared its support for the military intervention in Yemen.
Meanwhile, the United States vowed to provide “logistical and intelligence” support to the operation which has not yet been officially endorsed by the United Nations.
However, Iran has warned against the intervention in Yemen, saying that it would led to consequences. Iranian television reported that Saudi Arabia’s air strikes had killed 13 civilians in the capital city of Sana’a.
According to initial reports, senior Houthi leaders are alleged to have been killed in night-time airstrikes by Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has said its force includes more than 100 warplanes and more than 130,000 ground troops.
Shortly after announcing its military operation, Saudi Arabia declared it had imposed a naval blockade on Bab El-Mandab strait to prevent it from falling under Houthi control.
According to AFP, Egypt has also sent four naval warships to secure the strait.
Bab El-Mandab strait is a crucial interest for Egypt and has been cited as one of the reasons Egypt decided to intervene in Yemen. The strait is strategically positioned whereby if it falls under the control of an ‘enemy’ then passage through the Suez Canal can be prevented.
YEMEN’S PRESIDENT FLEES?
As Shiite Houthi rebels captured a key air base from forces loyal to Yemen’s President Hadi, AFP reported that the President has fled with Saudi diplomats from his palace in Aden.
Shortly before the claimed escape, Hadi’s Minister of Defence was captured by Houthi rebels.
According to AFP, which cited sources in the presidential guard, Hadi left by helicopter accompanied by diplomats from Saudi Arabia.
Nevertheless, independent news website Yemen Today said Hadi had not fled and that he is leading the armed resistance against the Houthis.
Following the news of his escape, Sky News Arabia reported that fighter jets had launched multiple attacks on the Presidential Palace in Aden.