Saudi Arabia oversaw the deployment around 100 ground troops in Yemen’s port city of Aden on Sunday, officials said on Sunday night.

It is believed to be the first time ground troops have been sent into Yemen during the month-long war between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and government forces. But Saudi Arabia, which has led airstrikes over Yemen to halt the Houthis’ sweep through the country, denied that a large-scale ground operation was underway.

Brigadier Baghash Akhbari, a local commander, said the fighters were not Saudi troops but Yemeni nationals sent to bolster the strength of local Houthi militants. “The Gulf states oversaw their arrival to the battlefront,” he said.

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