Al-Qaeda targets were struck close to the city of Bayda, some 130km (80 miles) south of the capital Sanaa late on Friday, officials said.
Police and security sources said the strikes had killed 23.
Officials said the attacks were carried out by Yemeni planes, although some residents thought they were US planes.
until now, however, the United States has mainly used drones to target members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has bases in southern Yemen, a reporter said.
Residents in Bayda told Reuters news agency that Friday night’s raid targeted bases belonging to AQAP-linked Ansar al-Sharia militants.
A government source told Reuters the warplanes targeted a gathering of “al-Qaeda elements”, killing 10 militants, including leaders, and their vehicles.
He said the militants were carrying equipment and weapons in order to launch attacks in Bayda province, Reuters reports.
Militants believed to be linked to al-Qaeda have exploited a security vacuum in the region after months of protests demanding the resignation of long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Friday’s strike comes weeks after Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was sworn in as president, and suggests a new determination against the fight against al-Qaeda in Yemen, our correspondent says.
Such a drive would most likely be in collaboration with the US, which has recently talked about restarting a major programme of assistance, our correspondent says.