At least 19 people have been killed in renewed battles between Yemeni government and Houthi rebels, a day after a 48-hour ceasefire expired without halting the violence.
The news came as the International Committee of the Red Cross warned civilians in the city of Taiz were pinnned down by shelling and sniper fire with bodies rotting in the streets.
Eleven rebels and five government soldiers were killed on Tuesday on the outskirts of Taiz, officials said, when forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi repelled an attack by Houthis and their allies.
The attack that began late on Monday targeted the al-Dhabab area, which provides pro-Hadi forces with their only access to Taiz, which is surrounded by the rebels.
Warplanes from the Saudi-led Arab coalition took part in defensive operations and repelling the attack, officials said.
Three more soldiers were killed and four wounded by rebel sniper fire near the northwestern coastal town of Midi, a military official said.
The Houthis have been trying to advance on Midi’s harbour, which is controlled by pro-Hadi forces, the official said.
On Tuesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sounded an alarm about civilians trapped by intense fighting in Taiz.
“Sniper fire and indiscriminate shelling has trapped civilians. Dead bodies are in the streets and people are unable to attend to their most basic needs. The situation is desperate,” said Alexandre Faite, the head of the ICRC in Yemen.
The city, one of the most populous in Yemen, has been besieged by the Houthis for more than a year.
Locals accuse the rebels of indiscriminately shelling residential areas throughout that period.
Fighters aligned with Yemen’s Saudi-backed government have slowly pushed the rebels back from positions inside the city, but have been unable to break the siege, although some difficult mountain routes reportedly provide a lifeline.
More than 7,000 people have been killed and nearly 37,000 have been wounded in the 20-month conflict, according to the United Nations.
The Houthis overran the capital Sanaa and other parts of the impoverished country in September 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene six months later in support of Hadi.