Al Arabiya quoted a source in Saleh’s General Peoples Congress as saying he was killed by sniper bullets. A Houthi video distributed on social media showed what appeared to be Saleh’s body, clad in grey clothes and being carried out on a red blanket. The side of his head bore a deep wound.
The radio station of the Houthi-run Yemeni Interior Ministry first reported Saleh’s death but his party quickly denied this to Reuters, saying he was still leading his forces in Sanaa.
Earlier on Monday, Houthi forces blew up Saleh’s house in Sanaa and came under aerial attack by Saudi-led coalition warplanes for a second day, residents said.
The Saudi-led air campaign, backed by U.S. and other Western arms and intelligence, has killed hundreds of civilians but has failed to secure the coalition any major gains in the nearly three-year-old campaign to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to power.
Saleh’s loyalists have lost ground on the sixth day of heavy urban warfare with the Houthis during which the death toll has jumped to at least 125 with 238 wounded, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Sanaa residents reported intense fighting overnight and into the morning with families cowering in their homes as explosions rocked the city. Coalition air strikes hammered Houthi positions in an apparent bid to shore up Saleh’s forces, witnesses said.The reports of Saleh's death came two days after the former president expressed his openness to talks with a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels, in what the fighters called "a coup" against their fragile alliance.
His comments on Saturday came after days of deadly clashes between forces loyal to him and the Houthis rebels, signalling an end to their united front against the Saudi-led coalition.
Earlier on Monday, a Sanaa-based activist told Al Jazeera that the Houthi rebels had gained control of the majority of Sanaa from Saleh's forces.
Saleh ruled Yemen for more than three decades before being deposed in 2012. He remained, however, a key player in the years that followed and played a pivotal role in the country's ongoing conflict.
The Houthis stormed Sanaa in September 2014. They seized control of the city and eventually led President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who succeeded Saleh in 2012, to flee to Saudi Arabia.
In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition intervened to reinstate Hadi's government. Three months later, following Saudi-led coalition air raids on his home in Sanaa, Saleh officially announced for the first time the establishment of his alliance with the Houthis.
Hakim al-Masmari, editor-in-chief of the Yemen Post, speaking to Al Jazeera from Sanaa said the reports of his death had left the country "in shock and awe". "You can not say this is the end of his political movement, but it’s a very big blow," he said. "But this is far from over - Saleh was an icon in Yemen for millions and so his death will not go slowly or unanswered."
The tactical alliance between Saleh and the Houthis had often appeared fragile, with both groups suspicious of each other's ultimate motives and sharing little ideological ground.
"This will not bring Yemen any closer to an end in fighting," said Masmari. "We can only be sure that the Houthis are now united under one leadership. Before there were two leaderships, two different agendas, two different ways how to win the war."
The war in Yemen is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, killing at least 10,000 people and leading to widespread hunger and disease.