Saudi-led coalition says killed over 260 Yemen rebels

Riyadh (AFP) – The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said Sunday it had killed more than 260 Huthi rebels in the past three days near the strategic city of Marib.

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The deaths are the latest among hundreds that the coalition claims have been killed in recent fighting around the internationally recognised government's last bastion in oil-rich northern Yemen.

But the Iran-backed Huthis rarely comment on losses, and AFP could not independently verify the toll.

"Thirty-six military vehicles were destroyed and more than 264" rebel fighters were killed in strikes in the past 72 hours, the coalition said, quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The strikes were carried out in Al-Jawba, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Marib, and Al-Kassara, 30 kilometres to the northwest.

The coalition has for the past two weeks reported almost daily strikes around Marib.

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 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 the war.

The UN Security Council called on Wednesday for "de-escalation" in Yemen in a unanimously adopted statement to counter the risk of "large-scale famine" in the country.

The 15 council members "stressed the need for de-escalation by all," demanded an immediate nationwide ceasefire, and called for an end to the Marib escalation.

"The members of the Security Council expressed grave concern for the dire humanitarian situation, including prolonged starvation and the growing risk of large-scale famine," according to a statement.

They also "condemned the recruitment and use of children, and sexual violence, in conflict".

The UN children's agency this week said that seven years of conflict in Yemen had killed or wounded at least 10,000 children.

The figure only included child victims whose fates were known to the organisation.

"Yemen's humanitarian crisis –- the world's worst -- represents a tragic convergence of four threats: (1) A violent and protracted conflict, (2) economic devastation, (3) shattered services for every support system - that is, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, protection and education, and (4) a critically under-funded UN response," spokesman James Elder told a UN briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

"The war must come to an end," he said.