The UAE has bombarded Yemen's Shia Houthi rebels with air strikes as it mourned 45 soldiers, among at least 60 troops killed in the deadliest day yet for a Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels.

On Saturday, UAE warplanes launched pre-dawn bombing raids against the rebels in the eastern province of Maarib - where the coalition troops were killed -  and on Yemen's rebel-held capital Sanaa, as well as on Houthi strongholds of Saada in the far north and the central city of Ibb, state media reported.

UAE news agency WAM said the UAE air force struck a mine-making plant in Saada province, and military camps and weapon stores in Ibb and Sanaa, causing "heavy damage".

Its aircraft unleashed waves of air strikes on the rebel-held capital from the early hours, causing panic among residents.

"These are the heaviest air strikes that Sanaa has endured," a local official told the AFP news agency.

The streets remained deserted as the bombing continued into daylight. There were unconfirmed reports that at least eight people were killed in the capital.

Emirati officials vowed that Friday's deaths in a missile attack on a weapons storage depot in Maarib would not alter their commitment to the coalition's mission to restore exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, head of the Emirati armed forces, vowed that "these events will only make us more steadfast in our stand for justice".

Arms taken to base before strike

The Houthi missile on the arms depot triggered large explosions that also killed 10 Saudi Arabian soldiers and an unknown number of Yemeni forces. Another five Bahraini soldiers also fighting for the Gulf coalition died on Friday.

Military sources said that the coalition had sent more weaponry - including tanks, armoured vehicles, troop carriers, rocket launchers and Apache helicopters - to the Maarib base in the days before the Houthi strike.

The UAE denounced the attack as "cowardly" but the Houthis said it was "revenge" for six months of deadly coalition air strikes.

Emirati soldiers in Abu Dhabi offload coffins of some of the UAE soldiers who died during the Yemen military operation [EPA]

UAE troops have played a leading role in the operation and at least five had already been killed in the fighting.

But Friday's losses were the heaviest since the formation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971 and, as the bodies of the dead were flown home on Saturday, the country began three days of national mourning.

The coalition launched its air war when Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia in March after the rebels entered his last refuge, Yemen's second city Aden.

After his loyalists recaptured the southern port city in July, the coalition launched a ground operation which has seen the rebels pushed back from five southern provinces, although they still control the capital Sanaa and much of the north and centre.

Source: Agencies