The top U.S. commander for the Middle East has gotten a first-hand look at Saudi Arabia's fight against Yemen's rebels in a rare American visit to the volatile border area.

Gen. Joseph Votel's visit on Wednesday comes as Washington presses a campaign targeting al-Qaida-linked militants in Yemen.

The U.S. is also trying to sort out its role in the impoverished country's civil war. A Saudi-led coalition is battling Iranian-backed rebels there.

The coalition has been heavily criticized for inflicting high civilian death tolls.

And Votel's trip to the Saudi-Yemeni border occurred on the same day the Saudi-led coalition hit a small hotel with airstrikes, reportedly killing dozens of people, including rebels and civilians.

A spokesman says Votel didn't cross into Yemeni territory.