Six months after Saudi Arabia said its war in Yemen was winding down, air strikes are again pounding rebels and rockets flying across the border, with no end to the conflict in sight.
Facing criticism of its bombing campaign and a budget crunch from low oil prices, Riyadh is keen to bring an end to the intervention it launched last year against Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies, analysts say.
But the suspension in early August of UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait, after three months without any headway, has instead led to a major increase in violence.
“Both sides now are trying to prove they are better in war than peace,” said Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni specialist and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Centre.
The Saudi-led Arab coalition launched the air raids in March last year, later sending in ground forces, to support the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after the rebels overran much of Yemen.
Riyadh accuses the Houthis, allied with troops loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, of working on behalf of its arch-rival Iran.
Coalition warplanes are also supporting pro-government forces against Al-Qaeda jihadists who have exploited Yemen’s power vacuum to expand their presence in the country’s south and southeast.
A year into the intervention, spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Assiri told AFP that coalition forces were “in the end of the major combat phase”.
A relative lull in the fighting followed, but in late July the most serious fighting for months along the border killed 12 Saudi soldiers.
The talks in Kuwait were suspended a few days later and the coalition resumed intense strikes on Sanaa and other rebel-held areas.
Rebel attacks also intensified. On Tuesday Saudi Arabia suffered its heaviest civilian losses of the conflict when seven died in a rebel rocket strike on the border city of Najran.
“This looks to be a long, continuing war,” said Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.