A coalition ground force has arrived in the southern coastal city of Aden, Yemeni officials told media outlets on Sunday. But the Saudi-backed coalition denies any involvement amid multiple reports.
"A limited coalition force entered Aden and another force is on its way" to the coastal city, a Yemeni government official told AFP on Sunday, on condition of anonymity.
The group of coalition soldiers, comprised of Saudis and Emiratis of Yemeni origin, allegedly dropped in near Aden's Houthi-held airport.
"Experts in the Saudi-led alliance gave this force high training in the use of sophisticated weapons," a journalist in Aden, requesting anonymity, told the DPA news agency via phone.
"Their dispatch to the airport area is aimed at liberating it from the Houthis' control and allow the landing of planes carrying humanitarian supplies to the city," he added.
Other government officials confirmed the reports. However, the statements were made anonymously as the sources say they were not authorized to brief the press.
Saudi-backed President Abed Mansour Hadi continues to vie for power after Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa
Ali al-Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Southern Popular Resistance, a group fighting Houthi rebels in southern Yemen, confirmed that coalition ground troops had indeed arrived in Aden.
"Joint land forces from the Arab coalition landed in Aden on Sunday and are now participating with the southern resistance to fight around Aden airtport," al-Ahmadi told Reuters news agency on Sunday. However, he later retracted his statement.
If confirmed, the move would mark the first time the Saudi-led coalition has put troops on the ground in Yemen.
'No forces' today
Meanwhile, coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri denied reports that a major ground force landed in Aden.
"I can assure you that no (coalition) forces disembarked on the ground in Aden today," Assiri told the Saudi-owned Al-Ekhbariya news channel.
The reports come a day after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi met with Saudi leadership in the Sunni kingdom.
The UN has warned that Yemen is on the brink of collpase. The Saudi-led coalition against Shiite Houthi fighters has left at least 1,200 dead, including 500 civilians, and 300,000 displaced, according to UN figures.
The coalition's military intervention in Yemen has been widely criticized by human rights groups due to high civilian casualities. Human Rights Watch reported on Sunday the use of cluster bombs by coalition forces.
ls/gsw (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)