UAE Rulers celebrate Armed Forces' efforts in Yemen
Servicemen and women honoured in official ceremony in Abu Dhabi
Tribute was paid to members of the UAE Armed Forces as they were welcomed home from Yemen in an official ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Described as "faithful falcons", thousands of servicemen were honoured in an organised event attended by the country's leadership.
The UAE's Rulers gathered in an aircraft hangar in Zayed Military City for a presentation detailing the country's achievements during its five-year involvement in the Arab Coalition's efforts to restore the internationally recognised government in Yemen.
"Faithful falcons, you sacrificed and raised our heads [with pride]," Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said on Twitter after the ceremony.
"We are proud of you, your families and your work. We are proud of every hour you spent away from your country.
"God protected you for the sake of our homeland and God protected our homeland with you."
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, said the UAE would "remain a bridge to peace and stability, supporting the region's progress of hope for a better life and a better tomorrow".
At the ceremony on Sunday, Lt Gen Issa Al Mazrouei, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, said 15,000 Emirati soldiers were sent to Yemen to join the coalition.
More than 130,000 air operations were carried out, amounting to half a million flight hours.
Fifty ships carrying 3,000 marine soldiers completed more than 1,000 naval missions to carry aid and military equipment between the UAE and Yemen.
"I say this to record it in history: the UAE Armed Forces were fighting three enemies on one land – the rebel Houthis, the Muslim Brotherhood and the terrorist forces of ISIS and Al Qaeda,” Lt Gen Al Mazrouei said.
He said together with protecting Yemenis from the Houthi insurgency, the UAE as part of the coalition also helped to train 200,000 Yemeni soldiers.
The UAE also established humanitarian initiatives that directly benefited 17 million people in Yemen.
The UAE Armed Forces learnt many lessons during this mission at a heavy cost
Lt Gen Issa Al Mazrouei, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces
"All of our work resulted in impressive results," Lt Gen Al Mazrouei said, revealing that between 85 and 90 per cent of Yemen had been liberated from rebel forces.
"The UAE Armed Forces learnt many lessons during this mission at a heavy cost. We gave sacrifices to protect Yemen as an Islamic and Arab country."
He was paying tribute to 108 Emirati soldiers who died in service over the past five years.
Lt Col Dr Ayesha Al Dhaheri, a doctor with the UAE Armed Forces, paid tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives during Operation Restoring Hope.
Dr Al Dhaheri also honoured the mothers of those servicemen, describing them as “makers of men”.
Once speeches were complete, the hangar doors opened to reveal thousands of servicemen and women in formation on the tarmac.
Saluting the UAE leadership, the Armed Forces sang the country’s national anthem. Within their ranks were Emirati Red Crescent workers who had been stationed in Yemen.
The UAE's leaders were invited to inspect the forces and walk among them as the military band played.
The return of the troops is part of a long-term strategic redeployment, announced in July, to focus on the peace process.
The UAE joined the Arab Coalition in Yemen in 2015, after a Houthi insurgency took over the country's capital of Sanaa and overthrew the legitimate government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.
The coalition, consisting of nine countries, intervened on behalf of the government to fight back the rebel group, which invited Al Qaeda and armed insurgents into the region.
Over five years, the coalition worked to liberate the insurgent-held territories and protected sea passages surrounding the country from naval attacks.
The coalition trained the Yemeni military in preparation for its redeployment and to avoid leaving behind a security vacuum.
On a humanitarian level, the UAE provided $5.59 billion (Dh20.53bn) in aid to Yemen between April 2015 and June 2019, assisting 17.2 million Yemenis in every governorate of the country, including rebel-held heartlands such as Saada.
The UAE government said it remained committed to the coalition and its efforts in the region.
It said the UAE would show continued support to the UN and other diplomatic efforts in Yemen.
Updated: February 10, 2020 12:04 PM