500 Houthis killed since start of Saudi campaign

The figure is the first reported death toll for border clashes since Saudi Arabia launched air strikes in Yemen on March 26

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More than 500 Iranian-backed houthi rebels have died in clashes with the Saudi military on the border since Riyadh launched an air war in late March, the Defence ministry said Saturday, according to Saudi Press Agency.

It was the first reported death toll for border clashes since Saudi Arabia, heading an Arab military coalition, launched air strikes against the Houthis in Yemen on March 26.

Meanwhile, on the Saudi side, the death toll doubled on Friday when three soldiers were killed and two wounded as mortar fire hit their observation post in Najran province, a ministry spokesman said.

Saudi authorities say three border guards were killed last week in an attack by the Houthis, who control parts of northern Yemen along the border.

Saudi Arabia has not “ruled out” the possibility of an Iranian presence in Yemen, the spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition striking Houthi militias in the country said on Saturday, the same day two Iranian military officers were reportedly captured in the southern city of Aden.

Speaking at a daily press briefing in the Saudi capital Riyadh, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said the coalition found evidence of Iranian support to the Houthis and did not dismiss the possibility of Iranian forces fighting in Yemen.

Earlier two Iranian military officers advising Houthi rebels were captured in Yemen’s southern city of Aden during fighting on Friday evening, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

The claims were supported by Reuters news agency, which reported local militiamen as saying the two Iranian officers were from an elite unit of the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards.

During his daily press briefing on Operation Decisive Storm, Asiri said airstrikes in Yemen weakened the movement of Houthis and militias loyal to deposed leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The spokesman also said a total of 1,200 air sorties have been carried out since the operation begun 16 days ago

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