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Yemeni Rebels say They Halted Saudi-led Forces at Port City

FILE - Houthi Shi'ite rebels walk amid the rubble of the Republican Palace that was destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes, in Sana'a, Yemen, Dec. 6, 2017.
FILE - Houthi Shi'ite rebels walk amid the rubble of the Republican Palace that was destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes, in Sana'a, Yemen, Dec. 6, 2017.

Yemen's rebels claim they halted advances of their adversaries, the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led Arab coalition, at a key battlefield around a strategic Red Sea port city.

Fighting continued around Hodeida on Tuesday despite the statement from the Shiite rebels, also known as Houthis, that a three-pronged coalition assault had been stopped around the city's outskirts.

The Iran-backed Houthis said they lost at least 30 men and a dozen armored vehicles.

Dozens of fighters have been killed and hundreds wounded from both sides since a renewed coalition offensive on the city began five days ago, following calls by the Trump administration for a cease-fire by late November.

The fighting has left dead bodies lying on the ground and inside burnt-out vehicles at the city's edge, according to witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety. The witnesses also said several civilians have been killed by shelling in residential areas.

Local media reported that air raids by the Saudi-led coalition were continuing, as was sporadic fighting around Hodeida, especially along 50th street and the 7th of July neighborhoods in the east.

Other active fronts in Yemen include the provinces of Dhale and Bayda, to the south, and in the north in Hajjah and Saada, a Houthi stronghold.

The Houthi statement also claimed the rebels stopped an attempted incursion by "mercenaries of the Saudi army," into Yemen from Jizan, a region across the border in Saudi Arabia.

Earlier on Tuesday, the rebels detained two journalists in the capital, Sana'a, colleagues said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. One man was taken from his production company's office, and another from his home, and both worked with foreign television news channels.

The rebels detained another journalist in Sana'a earlier this month, and have held other over the course of the war, some for years.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian Refugee Council said millions of Yemenis are edging closer to famine and fatal disease as the Saudi-led coalition's blockade on sea, land and air routes in the Arab world's poorest country continued.

The coalition restricted access to Yemen in November last year, after a missile assault by rebels targeted the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Jan Egeland of the NRC said "the past 12 months have been a never-ending nightmare for Yemeni civilians."

The Saudi-led coalition, which seeks to restore to power the internationally recognized Yemeni government, has been at war with the Houthis since March 2015; the stalemated conflict has generated the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Hodeida, the main portal for humanitarian aid to the suffering population, has become the epicenter of the conflict.

The United States has sold billions of dollars' worth of arms to Saudi Arabia and provides logistical and other support to the coalition.