Anti-Houthi forces have vowed to push the rebels from their last remaining strongholds in Aden, as members of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government returned to the strategic southern port city.
Fighters for the Popular Resistance - an anti-Houthi southern militia - have been making significant gains against their rebel opponents this week, including recapturing the provincial government headquarters in the Mualla district, opposite Aden's main commercial port.
They also advanced in Aden's Crater district, where a presidential palace is located, and took control of Aden's international airport.
On Thursday, they said they were hoping to push the Houthi rebels from their last remaining strongholds.
"We will purge the remaining pockets of Houthi militia and [pro ex-President Ali Abdullah] Saleh forces in the coming hours, so the 'Eid' in Aden will be happiest," said Brigadier Fadhel Ba’ech, a field commander with the resistance militia.
In a statement posted on Houthi-controlled state media, however, the rebel group said it was weathering the Aden offensive, which has been supported by air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition which seeks to return Hadi to power.
While the resistance fighters are against the Houthis, many are secessionists who are not pro-Hadi, the exiled president.
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Aden had been the final refuge for Hadi's government, which was driven out of the capital Sanaa by the Houthi rebels last September.
Several ministers and top intelligence officials of the exiled Yemeni government returned to Aden on Thursday for the first time since the Houthis captured the city in March.
The delegation included the ministers of the interior and transport, a former interior minister, the intelligence chief and the deputy head of the house of representatives.
"Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi delegated this group to return to Aden to work to prepare the security situation and ensure stability ahead of a revival of the institutions of state in Aden," one of the officials told the Reuters news agency.
|The retreating Houthi rebels launched rockets at storage tanks of an oil refinery in Aden [AP]
The offensive in Aden has come after the failure of a UN-declared truce that was to have taken effect just before midnight on Friday to allow the delivery of desperately-needed relief supplies.
The United Nations has declared Yemen a level-three humanitarian emergency, the highest on its scale.
More than 21 million people - about 80 percent of Yemen's population - need aid, with 13 million facing food shortages, while access to water has become difficult for 9.4 million people.
According to UN figures, more than 3,200 people have been killed since late March, when a coalition of Arab countries began air strikes after Houthis took over the reins of power in the impoverished country.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies