United Arab Emirates jets have carried out air strikes on Yemeni fighters amid national mourning for 45 soldiers who were among dozens killed in the deadliest day so far for the Arab coalition.

The jets launched pre-dawn raids on Saturday on Marib, Sanaa, the opposition stronghold of Saada in the far north, and the central city of Ibb, UAE state media reported.

Coalition aircraft carried out waves of air strikes on Sanaa from the early hours, sowing panic.

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

Media in Riyadh said 10 Saudi soldiers also died in Friday's missile attack in Marib, an eastern oil province, in which the Emirati troops died.

The strike hit an arms depot, setting off huge explosions that the Yemeni government said also killed five Bahraini soldiers.

Missile source targeted

Fighter jets also bombed the position from which the missile is believed to have been fired, a local official and witnesses said.

The Baihan district of Shabwa province, which borders Marib, is one of the last opposition redoubts in the south.

"The missile, with a range of 60km, was indeed fired from the Baihan area," a loyalist officer told AFP.

He said at least 12 opposition fighters were killed in Saturday's raids there.

In the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, an honour guard stood by as pallbearers carried the flag-draped coffins off a military aircraft.

Sanaa was among the places targeted by coalition jets in response to Friday's deadly missile attack on Arab forces [EPA]

Friday's losses were the heaviest since the formation of the UAE in 1971, and as the bodies arrived home on Saturday three days of national mourning began.


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Huge crowds attended the funerals as the "courage" and "bravery" of the fallen were praised on social networks.

The British embassy said on Twitter that its flags in Dubai and Abu Dhabi had been lowered to half mast as a mark of respect.

"A cowardly attack will not deter us, nor will it stop us from realising our goals," Anwar Gargash, UAE's junior minister of foreign affairs, said.

'More steadfast'

For his part, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi's crown prince and UAE's acting armed forces chief, said "these events will only make us more steadfast in our stand for justice".

The UAE said the attack would not sap its commitment to the Arab coalition's mission to restore exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The White House said President Barack Obama telephoned Mohammed bin Zayed on Saturday to offer his condolences, and state news agency WAM reported that Hadi travelled to Abu Dhabi to do the same.

It said Mohammed bin Zayed told Hadi: "We will be with you till the end."

For their part, the Iran-allied Shia Houthi fighters described the missile attack as "revenge" for six months of deadly Arab coalition air raids.

UAE media said Mohammed bin Zayed, at right, at a meeting in Abu Dhabi, told Hadi: 'We will be with you till the end' [Reuters]

The Houthis said they had used a Tochka missile to attack the Safer camp in Marib.

They praised the strike as "revenge for the crimes and the war of extermination being carried out by the Saudi aggressor and its mercenaries".

Marib has seen fierce fighting as loyalist forces and their coalition allies have advanced north.

Loyalist military sources said the coalition had reinforced Safer this week with tanks, armoured vehicles, troop carriers, rocket launchers and Apache helicopters.

These were to boost "the counteroffensive launched by loyalist forces and the coalition to advance on Sanaa", one military official said.

General Ahmed Assiri, the coalition spokesman, told Saudi online media on Saturday that the war against the Houthis would not ease.

"The mission of the coalition forces is to restore peace and stability to Yemen," Al-Riyadh daily quoted him as saying. "They will continue their military operations until their objectives are achieved."

Ground operation

The coalition launched an air war when Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia in March after the Houthis and their allies entered his last refuge, Yemen's second city Aden.

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

UAE troops have played a leading role in the operation and seven had already been killed.

 

Friday's losses in Yemen came as Saudi King Salman met Obama in Washington, with Yemen high on the agenda.

Obama said the two sides "share concerns" about the need to restore a functioning government in Yemen and relieve its humanitarian crisis.

More than 4,500 people have been killed in the conflict, including hundreds of children, according to the UN, which has warned that Yemen is on the brink of famine.

The US has supported the Arab coalition effort, but repeatedly warned about the impact on civilians.

Source: Agencies