Three Saudi soldiers were killed in clashes with Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels along the kingdom’s southern border as a three-week conflict between a coalition led by the kingdom and the Shiite group shows no sign of abating.
Houthi gunmen fired mortar shells on a border control site in the Najran province Friday, killing the three soldiers and wounding two others, the official Saudi Press Agency reported Saturday, citing a Defense Ministry official it didn’t identify. The incident brings to six the number of Saudi military personnel killed since the kingdom launched airstrikes against the Houthis and their allies last month.
Saudi forces fired back at the rebels, bringing the total death toll among the rebel fighters along the border to more than 500, according to the press agency.
Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of predominantly Sunni nations against the Yemeni rebels, saying the aim of the military campaign is to restore the legitimate government of President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi and force the Houthis to resume talks. The coalition has refused to rule out the deployment of ground troops.
Saudi Arabia strengthened its military positions along its 1,100-mile (1,770-kilometer) frontier with Yemen as the coalition bombing campaign started against the Houthis. Soldiers monitor rebel positions from hilltop outposts to guard against attacks. The terrain makes it difficult to prevent cross-border strikes by the Houthis, who have fired on Saudi positions from mountainous areas inside Yemen.
At least 34 people were killed in Yemen on Saturday, most of them Houthi rebels and allied fighters loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and tribesmen who back Hadi. Ten civilians died in air strikes that targeted Houthi bases, according to state news agency Saba, which is under Houthi control.
Two Iranian officers said to be commanding Shiite Houthi rebels were captured in Yemen, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV reported. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denied on Thursday that his country was intervening in Yemen.
(An earlier version of the story corrected the number of total Saudi soldiers killed.)