An explosion and smoke rise after an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition at a weapons depot in Sanaa, Yemen. Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of mainly Gulf nations fighting the Houthis, who seized the capital, Sanaa, last September. Image Credit: AP

On the Yemeni Saudi border: The Saudi-led coalition battling Iran-backed insurgents sent more military vehicles and troops across the border into Yemen on Friday in preparation for an offensive to retake the capital, military officials said.

The arrival of reinforcements came as coalition warplanes killed seven rebels in an air raid on Friday in eastern Yemen, where Apache helicopters have also joined the fight against the Al Houthi militia.

The strike targeted a military vehicle used by the militia in the eastern province of Marib, while other air raids struck rebel positions in neighbouring Shabwa province, military sources said. At least 40 coalition military vehicles crossed over into oil-rich Marib.

The vehicles were carrying Yemeni troops trained in Saudi Arabia as well as coalition troops whose nationality military officials in the area declined to specify.

It came hours after UN special envoy for Yemen, Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad, said that the exiled government and Al Houthi militia had agreed to take part in peace talks that “will convene in the region next week”.

The UN estimates that more than 4,500 people have been killed in the conflict.

Gulf Arab members of the coalition, in which the UAE is also playing a major role, have reportedly sent thousands of heavily armed reinforcements to Yemen, mainly to Marib, since last week in preparation for the push on the capital Sana’a.

The exiled government has also announced that 10,000 Yemeni fighters are now ready to serve in a “national army being prepared to liberate Sana’a and other provinces”.

Military sources in Marib said that the coalition’s Apache helicopters were also taking part in the battle against rebels in the province.

“Preparations are ongoing for large-scale military operations to liberate the provinces of Marib and Jawf [in the north] in order to enter Sana’a,” which the rebels seized a year ago, one of the Yemeni military officials said.

India meanwhile said the bodies of six Indian seamen have been recovered three days after their boats were hit by air strikes in the waters between Somalia and Yemen.

India’s External Affairs Ministry says that one Indian is still missing and its embassy in Yemen’s camp office in Djibouti is working with local authorities to determine his whereabouts.

Two boats carrying 21 Indians were struck on Tuesday. Fourteen were rescued, the ministry said in a statement in New Delhi on Friday.

India didn’t say what the boats were doing in that area or who carried out the air strikes.
The pro-government coalition has intensified raids against rebel forces since a deadly missile attack last week killed 60 Gulf troops, most of them Emiratis, in Marib province.

The coalition launched its air war in March after the militia entered the main southern city of Aden, where President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi had sought refuge before fleeing to Saudi Arabia.

Since mid-July, pro-Hadi fighters, backed by the coalition, have recaptured Aden and four other southern provinces.