Updated on Sept. 7 with confirmation that the troops have been deployed
Speaking to Doha News, a spokesperson for Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday declined to comment on whether the nation’s military was becoming more involved in the ongoing clash between the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government.
However, a correspondent for the state-funded Al Jazeera Network reported on Monday from the Saudi-Yemen border that Qatar troops were heading to Yemen, and backed by more than 200 armored vehicles and 30 Apache combat helicopters.
— Mohamed (@arabianofelix) September 6, 2015
This week, reactions to the news have been mainly supportive from people in the Gulf, according to the trending hashtag #جيش_قطر_يتجه_لسحق_الحوثي (Qatar’s army is going to crush the Houthis).
On Twitter, some prayed for the soldiers’ protection and victory against the rebels, while others hailed the unity among the Gulf states taking part in the military offensive:
Translation: May God protect every soldier who left his loved ones, family and friends to serve the country and perform his duty.
— DR.Mohamad ALHdla (@drmohamadalhdla) September 6, 2015
Translation: A million welcomes to the Qatari army and its brave men. In the decisive battle, (Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s) children will have the final word.
The deployment of Qatar troops comes days after dozens of Saudi and Emirati soldiers were killed in an explosion at a weapons store in central Yemen.
According to QNA, Qatar has expressed its condolences and said it stands in solidarity with Saudi Arabia and UAE following the deaths.
The explosion was apparently caused by rockets fired from the Houthis and led to the demise of 45 Emirati soldiers, “one of the worst losses of life in the history of the UAE military,” according to Reuters.
— سلطان سعود القاسمي (@SultanAlQassemi) September 5, 2015
The explosion also caused the highest number of deaths for the coalition since the beginning of the Saudi-led military offensive on the Houthis in March, after 10 Saudi soldiers died in the same explosion.
Meanwhile, Bahrain’s official news agency BNA said five Bahraini soldiers were killed while on duty protecting Saudi Arabia, deaths that apparently refer to the same incident, according to Reuters.
Operation Decisive Storm
Qatar and several other GCC and Arab countries have been part of a Saudi-led military offensive in Yemen since it first began in March, expressing support for the government of exiled Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
According to Al Arabiya, Qatar had initially deployed 10 fighter jets to Yemen to participate in the offensive.
Early last month, the UAE sent a military brigade to Yemen to fight Houthi rebels, senior Yemeni and United States military officials told the New York Times.
Gulf involvement has in part to do with concerns that the conflict in Yemen would give Iran a chance to gain a foothold over the Arabian Peninsula via the Houthi rebels, which are considered “Iranian proxies,” David Roberts, a lecturer at King’s College in London, previously told Doha News.
Some analysts have said Shia Iran’s support comes as it is locked in a struggle for influence with regional Sunni rival Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis hail from the Shia Zaydi community, which makes up around a third of Yemen’s population and is concentrated in the north, according to the Guardian.
So far, the conflict has resulted in a “massive” humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.
Since March, at least 1,950 civilians have been killed and 4,271 wounded in air strikes and fighting on the ground in Yemen, according to UN figures cited by the BBC.
The channel reported that “the destruction of infrastructure and restrictions on imports imposed by a Saudi-led coalition carrying have led to 21 million people being deprived of life-sustaining commodities and basic services.”
It added that last month, the UN children’s fund (Unicef) warned that an average of eight children were being killed or maimed every day.