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Saudi-led coalition says killed over 260 Yemen rebels

Saudi-led coalition says killed over 260 Yemen rebels

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said Sunday its air strikes had killed more than 260 Huthi rebels in the past three days, but a rebel spokesman said the bombing campaign will not stop them.

The deaths are the latest among roughly 1,600 rebels the coalition claims it has killed in strikes over the past two weeks around Marib, the internationally recognised government's last bastion in oil-rich northern Yemen.

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

The strikes are the most recent in a nearly seven-year coalition military campaign to support Yemen's internationally recognized government against the Huthis.

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

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

"If the enemy thought that their warplanes could limit the progress of our forces or break the determination of our soldiers they are mistaken," Huthi spokesman Yahya Saree said on the rebel's Al-Masirah TV channel.

He claimed that during an operation the rebels had killed 550 pro-government fighters, wounded 1,200, and taken 90 prisoners, without specifying a time frame.

AFP could not independently verify the figures given by the rebels.

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

- Ceasefire call -

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, which the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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 demanded an immediate nationwide ceasefire, and sought 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 UNICEF last 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, and there were countless others, UNICEF spokesman James Elder said in Geneva.

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