On Friday, the Saudi defence ministry said three Saudi soldiers and dozens of Yemeni rebels were killed overnight after the rebels and their supporters launched a cross-border attack on the kingdom’s southern Najran province.

The air raids came a day after scores of Houthi fighters were reportedly killed in clashes with Saudi forces on Yemen’snorthern border. They are backed by elements of the military loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was driven from power in 2012, and have been battling regular troops and militias loyal to Hadi.

Fierce fighting was reported on Friday, at least 20 civilians died during Saudi-led airstrikes on rebel Houthi targets, including a strike in the capital Sanaa.

But Saudi King Salman and his son and Defence Minister Prince Mohammed, newly elevated to deputy crown prince earlier this week, have staked immense political capital in the campaign to reinstate Hadi and have said repeatedly that it will go on until the rebels concede. The troops frequently fire at suspected rebel positions with both cannon and mortar fire.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking ahead of Friday’s Security Council meeting, warned that the lack of available fuel – much of which is stockpiled by the rebels – threatened the international community’s capacity to assist.

Last week, Saudi Arabia announced the halt of air raids, saying that the coalition forces had eliminated threats of the Houthi group to the regional countries.

The area across the border is considered a Houthi stronghold.

The forces in Yemen which Saudi Arabia is arming can turn jihadi, Baraka says, as they have some “traditional, Whabis, Islamic leanings, ” which is the “main ideological, Islamic foundation for Al Qaeda.“.

The World Food Programme said it was halting its food distribution due to the shortage of fuel as most stocks are in rebel hands.

Saudi Arabia believes the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi group is a proxy for its regional rival Iran, and Saudi backing for the resistance in Yemen’s mostly Sunni Muslim south has raised fears that Yemen could descend into all-out sectarian war.

“Current military Iranian support to Houthis in Yemen is consistent with patterns of arms transfers going back to more than five years to date”.

Associated Press Writer Ahmed al-Haj contributed from Sanaa, Yemen.

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