SANAA, Yemen, April 10 (UPI) -- Heavy fighting in Yemen between government troops and Houthi rebels broke out Sunday in advance of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire.
Iran-backed rebels accelerated military operations near the cities of Marib, Taiz and Lahj to seize territory prior to the midnight cease-fire. Local residents said new arms shipments for the rebels arrived in Taiz.
Despite seizures by the United States military of weapons shipments arriving by boat, reinforcements and supplies for the rebel forces have not abated in the past two days, they said.
Government troops were aided by airstrikes from a coalition of Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia, although no airstrikes were reported in the weekend's escalation of action.
The civil war in Yemen has been depicted by diplomats and the press as a proxy war -- Saudi Arabia and other Sunni allies opposing Shite Houthis backed by Iran. The fighting forced internationally recognized Yemeni President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee the presidential palace in 2015 for Saudi Arabia. He returned later that year.
The Saudi-led airstrikes began in March 2015. The conflict has caused a humanitarian crisis, with more than 9,000 fatalities, at least half of whom are civilians, since the start of the air campaign.
The cease-fire, said Jan Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council, a humanitarian rescue group, "is a moment of truth for Yemen's millions of civilians. A real cease-fire could be the first step towards ending this staggering yet forgotten crisis."
The cease-fire was brokered by the United Nations, which has also organized peace talks scheduled to begin April 18 in Kuwait.