DUBAI - Gulf Arab monarchies have sent thousands of heavily armed troops to reinforce loyalists in Yemen in the battle against Iran-backed rebels, media reported on Monday.

The reinforcements come after a missile attack by the Shiite Huthi insurgents on Friday killed 60 Gulf soldiers — 45 Emiratis, 10 Saudis and five Bahrainis. The Sunni-ruled Gulf states have remained tight-lipped about the new troops sent mainly by Qatar and Saudi Arabia to Marib province east of Yemen’s rebel-held capital Sanaa.

But Qatar’s Al-Jazeera news channel reported late on Sunday that 1,000 Qatari soldiers with 200 armoured vehicles have arrived in Marib after crossing the border from Saudi Arabia. It is the first time Qatari troops are reported to be taking part in operations on the ground in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition, which in March began an air campaign in support of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Saudi Arabia also sent elite units to Marib on Sunday, according to the Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat and Emirati state news agency WAM. Yemeni military sources in Marib have spoken of the arrival of some 1,000 Saudi soldiers armed with tanks and other armoured vehicles, as well the Qatari reinforcements. Military sources have also mentioned preparations in Marib for an offensive against the rebels and their allies, renegade troops loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Huthis swept down from their northern mountain stronghold last year and seized Sanaa unopposed before advancing on second city Aden in March. After loyalists recaptured the southern port in July, the coalition began a ground operation that has seen the rebels pushed back from five southern provinces.

On Monday, coalition warplanes again targeted rebel positions across Yemen. Air strikes hit the Dailami air base near Sanaa airport, which is controlled by troops loyal to Saleh. Raids also struck positions in Marib, as well as the neighbouring northeastern province of Jawf, military sources said. Rebel posts in Taez in central Yemen and in the southern province of Baida were also hit, military sources said. Upwards of 4,500 people have been killed in the Yemen conflict, including hundreds of children, according to the UN which has warned that the country is on the brink of famine.

Moreover, Qatar hit out Monday at countries for unfulfilled aid pledges to conflict-hit Darfur, as Doha announced it will spend about $70 million this year building 10 villages in the Sudanese region.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Mahmoud told reporters following a Darfur donors’ meeting in the Qatari capital that he was “not completely satisfied” with aid levels and would look for new donors.

“We are satisfied with some countries that have already committed,” he said, without naming them. “Some countries really showed commitment, some started to promise commitment.We do not wait for those who promise but we want to get new partners involved.” Shahin Ali al-Kaabi, Qatar’s representative at the meeting, said his country would “establish another 10 model villages in Darfur worth $70 million this year”.

The meeting was attended by delegates from the UN Development Programme and the European Union, as well as a number of donor countries. Darfur has been engulfed by violence since ethnic insurgents rebelled against Khartoum’s rule 12 years ago, complaining of economic and political marginalisation by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.

President Omar al-Bashir’s government unleashed a brutal counter-offensive using Arab militia and the military. The United Nations says some 300,000 people have been killed in the western region since 2003, and another 2.5 million forced to flee their homes. Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide charges related to the conflict. The situation in Darfur has deteriorated in recent years because of a spike in criminality and inter-tribal disputes over land and resources. Bashir said last month that the conflict would end in 2016.