Residents examine damage from shelling by Shiite Houthi rebels Sunday in their neighborhood of Aden, Yemen. At least 45 people were killed. (European Pressphoto Agency)

Shiite rebels and their allies in Yemen randomly shelled a town outside Aden on Sunday after losing control of some of the port city’s neighborhoods, killing at least 45 people and wounding 120, officials said.

The violence highlighted the bloody chaos of the civil war gripping the Arab world’s poorest country, where a Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against rebel forces since late March.

A leader with the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, denied shelling Dar Saad, a town just north of Aden and home to fighters resisting their advances. But Yemeni medical officials and a doctor with an international aid organization said the shelling clearly came from the north and east of Dar Saad — areas under rebel control.

Saudi-backed troops and fighters seized some of Aden’s neighborhoods and its international airport last week. The shelling on Sunday appeared to be intended to punish those resisting the Houthis and also halt the advance of the opposition.

Yemeni medical and military officials said hundreds of residents fled Dar Saad amid the shelling, which they said killed at least 45 people and wounded 120, all thought to be civilians.

Zeifullah al-Shami, a Houthi leader, denied targeting civilians, saying his forces were engaging the rivals on the front lines.

“This is part of the media deception,” he said. “We didn’t kill civilians.”

The rebels had vowed to retaliate, however, after losing ground in Aden. The rebels now are largely based in Aden’s western neighborhood of Tawahi, as well as bases east of Aden and in Lahj province, north of the city. Saudi-backed fighters also are advancing on a military air base in Lahj.

On Sunday night, anti-Houthi forces linked up in Tawahi from the north and south at the state television building, a Yemeni military official said. He asserted that anti-Houthi forces fully controlled the area and that they were searching for rebels, some of whom had fled to nearby mountains. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to journalists.

The fighting in Yemen pits the Houthis and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh against exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is now based in Saudi Arabia, as well as other forces.

The rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, in September. Fierce fighting in Aden erupted in March, sparking the Saudi-led airstrikes.