ADEN - Yemeni fighters backed by Saudi-led airstrikes battled to take back northern suburbs of Aden from Houthi opponents on Tuesday, residents said, a day after completing their capture of the center of the strategic port city.
The country's dominant Houthi militia and its army allies traded artillery fire with Saudi-backed forces in the Dar Saad and al Alam areas as Arab warplanes bombed the Iran-allied group.
Local anti-Houthi forces broke months of stalemate in Aden last week by suddenly seizing the airport and then driving the Houthis out of their last redoubt in the west of the city.
Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen's war in March in an effort to stop Houthi forces taking Aden, the last city nominally controlled by exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government.
?Riyadh said it wants to restore Hadi to power in the capital Sana'a, which the Houthis seized in September.
The United Nations said Tuesday that more than 3,600 people have died during the almost four months of air raids and civil war in Yemen.
The conflict has deepened suffering in the already impoverished nation, especially in Aden which has seen heavy combat.
A Houthi artillery barrage killed 43 people and wounded 173 Sunday in Dar Saad, underscoring the fragile grip of the anti-Houthi forces.
"We're in an operation to complete the extension of our control over the city of Aden and to confront the Houthi presence at its entrances," a leader in a local militia told Reuters by phone.
Hadi's administration and the Arab military alliance are seeking to secure the city and make it a base from which to challenge Houthi control over most of the rest of Yemen.
The president appointed a new governor for the city on Monday and sources among the local fighters said a technical team from the United Arab Emirates had arrived to repair the city's battle-damaged international airport.
Officials in the anti-Houthi forces say their offensive had been planned for weeks and benefited from training and arms deliveries from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The United Arab Emirates said Tuesday that one of its officers had been killed while taking part in the Yemen campaign, but did not specify where. The death of another UAE soldier was announced last week.
A ship carrying enough U.N. food aid to feed 180,000 people for a month docked at the Yemeni port of Aden on Tuesday, having waited for almost four weeks, World Food Program spokesman Peter Smerdon said.
"It's the first WFP chartered ship to berth in the port since the conflict erupted in late March," Smerdon said. "We have additional ships chartered, which are on standby heading towards Aden carrying more food and fuel."
Imports to Aden's port terminals have stopped almost completely since fighting began, and residents said Houthi forces are preventing food, fuel and medicine from being brought into the city.