Yemeni forces supported by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which aims at restoring the internationally recognized government, moved Sunday toward the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, local military sources and residents said.
The Saudi backed forces fought with Iran-backed Houthi fighters entrenched there, the sources said.
Thousands of troops were deployed by the coalition to reseize the heavily-defended Yemeni city, which the coalition failed to retake in a previous attempt.
However, a source said that it is the first time for clashes to reach this point, referring to a university lying there, while residents said they heard gunfire in the area.
“We have watched the situation deteriorate to the point that Yemen is now on the brink of man-made famine, and facing the worst cholera epidemic in the world in decades,” U.N. refugee agency UNHCR special envoy Angelina Jolie said.
The UN warned previously that half of Yemen's population could soon be on the brink of famine.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE say that taking control of Hodeidah woulf cut the Houthis main supply and force them to the negotiation table, adding that such action would deliver a blow to the Houthis, who still control the most populated areas of Yemen including the state's capital.