The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said Monday it had killed 150 Huthi rebels near Marib, as fierce fighting raged for the strategic city in a war that has raged for seven years.
Air strikes “destroyed 13 military vehicles and killed 150 terrorist elements” in Abdiya within the past 24 hours, the coalition said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The latest toll takes to more than 1,100 the number of rebels the coalition says it has killed in the past week around Abdiya which is about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Marib, the internationally recognised government’s last bastion in oil-rich northern Yemen.
The Iran-backed Huthis rarely comment on losses, and the numbers could not be independently verified by AFP.
In a televised speech on Monday, rebel leader Abdelmalek al-Huthi called for continued fighting.
“We must… confront the aggression with all firmness until the siege is lifted, the aggression and the occupation ends,” he said.
Tens of thousands of Huthi sympathisers took part in a rally on Monday in areas under the control of the insurgents, AFP correspondents reported.
In video footage shot by AFP, government loyalists shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) as they fired assault rifles on a rebel position in Marib and clouds of smoke billowed from the base of a mountain range.
“We are today fighting on the southern front line” of Marib, one of them says.
“We gave the enemy an unforgettable lesson and captured some of them,” he told AFP.
“We thank the Arab coalition for their air support and the strikes that they carried out against the enemy and for the destruction of their vehicles.”
On Sunday, the Huthis declared on Twitter that they had advanced on several fronts around Marib, including Abdiya, where the coalition says it is pounding the insurgents.
The Huthis began a major push to seize Marib in February and have renewed their offensive since September after a lull.
The Yemeni civil war began in 2014 when the Huthis seized the capital Sanaa, 120 kilometres (75 miles) west of Marib, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year.
Tens of thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations last week called for a halt to fighting in Abdiya, where it said the movement of aid to tens of thousands of people had been “extremely restricted”.