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© AFP/File | The Iran-backed Huthi rebels seized the Yemeni capital Sanaa and the key Red Sea port city of Hodeida in 2014

HODEIDA (YEMEN) (AFP) -

Dozens of Yemeni rebels have been killed in battles and air strikes in Hodeida, medics said Sunday, as pro-government forces advanced in the insurgent-held Red Sea port city.

Fifty-three Huthi rebels were killed and dozens were injured over the past 24 hours, medical sources in the area told AFP.

According to a pro-government military source, clashes intensified in Hodeida city and centred around its university on Saturday and Sunday morning.

Saudi-led coalition warplanes carried out dozens of air strikes to support pro-government forces in the fighting which began on Thursday evening, according to military officials.

Thirteen pro-government troops were killed, medical sources in Aden and Mokha -- where the fighters were transported -- told AFP.

The clashes erupted just hours after the government said Thursday it was ready to restart peace talks with the Iran-backed Huthis.

The offer followed a surprise call by the United States for an end to the Yemen war, including air strikes by the coalition.

Hodeida port is the entry point for more than 70 percent of imports into the impoverished country, which is teetering on the edge of famine.

After UN-backed peace talks collapsed in September, the coalition announced it was relaunching an assault on Hodeida.

Yemeni government officials said Tuesday that the coalition had sent more than 10,000 new troops towards the battleground city.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the war in 2015 to bolster Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after the rebels took over the capital Sanaa.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict since 2015.

Some rights groups estimate the toll could be five times higher.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday called for a halt to violence to pull Yemen back from the "precipice".

© 2018 AFP

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