Armed Yemeni tribesmen from the Popular Resistance Committees, supporting forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, fire as they hold a position in the area of Sirwah, west of Marib city, on December 18, 2015Armed Yemeni tribesmen from the Popular Resistance Committees, supporting forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, fire as they hold a position in the area of Sirwah, west of Marib city, on December 18, 2015 (AFP Photo/Abdoullah al-Qadry)
Aden (AFP) - Yemeni loyalists killed at least 20 Iran-backed rebels Saturday in a pushback against insurgents seeking to retake positions to the northeast of the capital they control, military sources said.
"The Huthis (rebels) on Friday launched an offensive in the direction of Jabal al-Salb in Nihm" district of Sanaa province, "but were repelled on Saturday morning," a loyalist commander told AFP.
"At least 20 Huthis were killed" since Friday night, another military source said, adding that an unspecified number of loyalist troops also died in the fighting.
Last week, pro-government forces captured the Jabal al-Salb area 40 kilometres (25 miles) outside Sanaa.
Forces loyal to Yemeni President Abdedrabbo Mansour Hadi and the Saudi-led military coalition supporting them have sent troops and armoured vehicles to reinforce the district.
Another six loyalists were killed on Saturday in a rebel rocket attack on the presidential palace in Marib, a town east of Sanaa under loyalist control, a pro-government military source said.
In Hajja province bordering Saudi Arabia, loyalists fended off a rebel attack north of Haradh town, which was recaptured by pro-government forces last week, a loyalist officer said.
"We're facing a counter-offensive from the Huthis who want to reconquer Jabal al-Nar" mountainous area they lost last week, he said.
Supported by Saudi Apache helicopters, pro-government forces "repelled the attack and inflicted heavy human losses on the Huthis," he added.
Coalition fighter jets led dawn raids on rebel positions in Majzar area in northern Jawf province, which is mostly under loyalist control, a spokesman for the pro-government Popular Resistance militia said.
Loyalist forces advanced in Ghayl area in the same province, around 20 kilometres northeast of Majzar, spokesman Mohamed al-Behaih added.
Strikes also targeted rebel positions in the Baqim and Kitaf areas in northern Saada province, the rebels' stronghold, loyalist military sources said.
The Huthis confirmed the strikes in a statement.
- Taez hospital closes -
Meanwhile, rebel rocket fire hit residential areas of the southwestern city of Taez, causing "several casualties", a military source said.
Two rebels and two loyalists died in clashes in the city's southern and western districts, while six more Huthis died in an ambush in Maqbana to the northwest of the city, the source said.
The largest hospital in Taez, which is under rebel seige, has closed due to "all its medicine and surgical materials running out," the hospital's management said in a statement on Saturday.
During peace talks last week, both sides had agreed to "allow for a full and immediate resumption of humanitarian assistance" into Taez.
But this aid "never reached residents in the centre of Taez, as Huthis seized it to give it to their supporters," Abdelkarim Shamsan, the head of a local humanitarian organisation, said.
Fighting persists in Yemen nine months since the coalition entered the war to support President Hadi, despite his government announcing the extension of a repeatedly violated ceasefire earlier this week.
Warplanes and troops from the Saudi-led coalition have been supporting forces loyal to Hadi since March.
The rebels seized Sanaa last year and then advanced south to second city Aden, forcing Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.
Following territorial gains by loyalists, Hadi returned to Aden in November after six months in exile.
The conflict has escalated dramatically since March 26, with nearly 6,000 people killed according to UN figures.