SANAA (Reuters) - A Gulf-trained unit of Yemeni forces loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has joined the battle in the central energy-producing Marib province for the first time, a senior provincial official said on Friday.
The official, who declined to be identified, said the unit had joined the front line in the al-Jafeena area of Marib.
Since a Houthi missile attack killed at least 60 Gulf Arab soldiers at a camp in Marib east of Sanaa on Sept. 4, the Saudi-led coalition has stepped up air strikes on the capital and increased its deployment of troops, which Yemeni officials say number a few thousand, ahead of an eventual push towards Sanaa.
On Friday, rockets fired by the Houthi militia and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh killed 10 people and wounded 25, according to the provincial official.
Meanwhile warplanes from a Saudi-led alliance bombed Yemen’s Houthi-held capital Sanaa on Friday, extending nearly a week of relentless bombardment on the city in over five months of war.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab states intervened in Yemen’s civil war on March 26 to halt the nationwide spread of the Houthis, who captured Sanaa a year ago and forced the government into exile in Riyadh after advancing on its southern stronghold of Aden.
It was the direct involvement of UAE ground forces, alongside Yemeni troops trained in Saudi Arabia and equipped with sophisticated heavy weapons, that allowed the coalition to break months of stalemate to take Aden in July, diplomats say.
The Houthis, who hail from the Shi’ite Muslim Zaydi sect, consider their rise a revolution. But they are fiercely opposed by the Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab states who believe the group is bent on spreading Iranian influence.
More than 4,500 people have been killed in the war.
Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Mark Heinrich