The bold ultimatum reflected the growing confidence among the opposition forces led the Yemen's largest tribe that they could be gaining the upper hand against Saleh's regime with the uprising shifting from near daily street protests to fast-moving urban combat.
But Saleh also has shown he will not go easily. He has managed to ride out swelling anti-government demonstrations for more than three months, defections of military commanders and pressure from Arab neighbours and Western powers to leave office.
The difference this time for Saleh could be the vast influence of Yemen's main tribes, which command well-armed militias and can tap into traditional clan-based loyalties to try to bring down Saleh's 32-year rule.
In the latest battles, government forces pounded tribal fighters with artillery and mortar rounds even as fighting fanned out around the capital Sanaa to areas that included the airport zone. Hundreds of Yemenis raced out of Sanaa or took refuge in basements to escape mortar strikes.