AL-MUKALLA, Yemen - At least 140 Iranian-backed Houthi fighters have been killed in fiery clashes with Yemen government troops in the central province of Marib, according to Arab News.
The casualties came on the fifth consecutive day of heavy fighting as the group intensified its attacks on government positions in an attempt to break through defenses and capture the city of Marib.
Backed by Arab coalition warplanes, Yemen army officials said government forces had succeeded in fending off the latest assaults.
Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has pledged to challenge Iran's bid to spread its revolutionary beliefs and undermine the security of Yemen.
The current escalation started on Saturday with the Houthis' push toward Marib, the Arab News report said. Non-stop fighting over the past 24 hours, coupled with more than 41 sorties by coalition jets targeting dozens of enemy reinforcements and equipment, had resulted in major losses for the militant group.
Yahiya Al-Hatemi, director of the Yemeni army's military media, told Arab News: "These are the most aggressive battles during the last five years. The Yemeni army has pushed back all of the attacks."
He said that on Wednesday the coalition's warplanes destroyed six vehicles carrying dozens of Houthis.
"If we counted the Houthis who were killed in the airstrikes, the number would be more than 140," Al-Hatemi calculated.
The deadly clashes follow a drone attack two days earlier. Saudi state television reported a bomb-ladened drone struck Abha Airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, injuring eight people and damaging a civilian aircraft.
The Houthi rebels were blamed by the Saudi-led coalition for the assault, the second such attack on the airport in the past 24 hours, after an earlier ballistic missile strike caused no casualties.
The Houthis did not claim responsibility for the attacks and its military spokesman did not respond to calls for comment.
Saudi forces said the drone was successfully intercepted but fragments were scattered, wounding several Bangladeshi, Nepalese and Indian citizens.
The attack came just days after missiles and drones struck a key military base in southern Yemen, killing some 30 Saudi-backed Yemeni troops and marking one of the bloodiest days in the country's bitter civil war. The strikes bore the hallmarks of the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, but no one claimed responsibility.
The rebels, who are battling the Saudi-led military coalition, have targeted international airports, military installations and key oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia since 2015.
Despite international diplomatic efforts to halt the fighting, the war in Yemen, which has led to the deaths of some 130,000 people and caused the world's worst humanitarian disaster, has become a bloody stalemate.
The Houthis have intensified their attacks on Saudi territory and are pushing for control of the government stronghold of Marib, which is rich in oil.
While the Yemeni military claimed it stopped an attack on the nearby city of Rahbah on Monday, Houthi rebels are continuing their advance on Marib.
The rebels took the capital Sanaa, and most of the country's northern regions in 2014, marking the start of the Yemeni war. Some months later, the Saudi-led military coalition dislodged the Houthis and restored the country's internationally-recognized government.