HODEIDAH/ADEN-- Saudi-led warplanes on Monday dropped "liberation" leaflets over Yemen's Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah, according to activists and residents.

"The Arab coalition forces are coming to liberate your areas from Iran-backed Houthi militias," read the leaflets.

Most of the leaflets were dropped over the districts of Hussieniyah and Zabid, about one-hour drive from the south of Hodeidah.

The leaflets urged the residents "not to join the Houthi militias and keep away from their positions."

The Saudi-led coalition has so far kept the city's port open for aid and commercial ships. The port is a main entry point of about 70 percent of Yemen's food, medicines, aid and fuel.

The battle for Hodeidah began in June, in which forces of the internationally recognized Yemeni government, backed by the Arab coalition, had advanced from Mocha, a southwestern port city under the government control, to al-Durayhemi and Tahita districts, capturing both areas on the southern edge of the port city.

The government military advance paused shortly in August to allow for more peace efforts by the UN envoy to Yemen. However, the fighting intensified after the peace talks in Geneva collapsed on Sept 8.

Up to 500,000 people fled homes in Hodeidah between June and August, according to UN aid agencies.

Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab military coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to support the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after Houthi rebels forced him into exile.

Meanwhile, fierce fighting between Yemen's internationally-recognised government forces and the Houthi rebels erupted on Monday in the Red Sea coast city of Hodeidah, killing at least 27 from both sides, officials told Xinhua.

A pro-government military official, who asked to remain anonymous, said that "ferocious battles occurred between the government forces and the Houthis during the past hours over the control of some military positions and farms in Hodeidah."

"We lost eight soldiers and ten others sustained injuries during the fighting. Our forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition killed 19 Houthi fighters and seized weapons," the official said.

A commander of the pro-government Giants Brigades confirmed to Xinhua saying that "the Houthi group lost a number of field leaders during the battles with government forces."

The commander said that the Houthi fighters are still attempting to retake areas surrounding the "Kilo16 road" but failed due to intensified airstrikes.

Sources close to the Houthi group said that their fighters repulsed advancement by the Saudi-backed forces in Al-Jaah area in Hodeidah.

"Our fighters confronted the mercenaries (pro-government forces) despite the heavy requirements and military air support by Saudi warplanes in Hodeidah's area of Al-Jaah," one of the source said anonymously.

In recent days, the Yemeni government seeks to expel the Houthi rebels out of the strategic port city of Hodeidah militarily despite warnings issued by international humanitarian agencies.

The impoverished Arab country has been locked into a civil war since the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels overran much of the country militarily and seized all northern provinces, including capital Sanaa, in 2014.

Saudi Arabia leads an Arab military coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to support the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after Iran-backed Houthi rebels forced him into exile.

The United Nations has listed Yemen as the world's number one humanitarian crisis, with seven million Yemenis on the brink of famine and cholera causing more than 2,000 deaths.


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