By Adel Al-Khader
SANAA (Reuters) -Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis held military funerals on Monday for 25 fighters killed in battles with a Saudi-led coalition, as fighting showed no signs of abating despite intense international diplomacy to end the seven-year-old conflict.
The funerals took place amid fierce fighting in the gas-rich Marib province, with warplanes from the coalition having intensified their bombing there and in the capital Sanaa and other areas.
The Houthis have also stepped up cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia using armed drones and missiles.
A spokesman for the coalition late on Monday said one ballistic missile fired from Yemen towards the kingdom had been intercepted over Riyadh. Residents reported loud blasts across the Saudi capital.
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said on Twitter that in response to the coalition’s attacks, the group has carried out a wide offensive operation in the kingdom, with details to be announced on Tuesday.
Over the past 24 hours, the coalition had carried out 47 air strikes against Houthi targets in Marib, he also said.
An honour guard carried the coffins – draped with flags, flowers and photographs of the dead – with military music through the capital Sanaa. Relatives gathered to mourn their loved ones.
“We are in these days inspired by these martyrs’ pride and dignity and say to them: ‘congratulations! You have preceded us to a paradise as wide as the heavens and earth’,” said Ali Muhyaddin, a relative of one of the dead.
The war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands and caused what the United Nations describes as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
U.N.-led attempts at a ceasefire have stalled in a conflict that is seen largely as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign invasion.
Houthi media showed fighters exchanging heavy artillery fire with coalition forces in Marib on Sunday as warplanes flew overhead. All of the 25 fighters buried in Sanaa were killed in Marib, Houthi officials said.
The Houthis have launched a year-long offensive to take Marib, which hosts Yemen’s biggest gas fields.
The city of Marib is the last stronghold of the internationally recognised government and home to 3 million people, including nearly 1 million who fled other parts of Yemen after the Houthis ousted the government from Sanaa in late 2014.
The number of displaced people in camps in the province has risen nearly 10-fold since September, with more than 45,000 people fleeing their homes as Houthi forces press the offensive, the U.N. migration agency IOM said last month.
(Writing by Dubai newsroom; Editing by William Maclean, Paul Simao and Grant McCool)