Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Fighting in Yemen's port city of Hudaydah has intensified in recent days, officials say, as forces loyal to exiled leader Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi try to retake the strategic location.
At least 149 people have died in a 24-hour period, officials said --mostly Houthi fighters. Hospitals reported 110 Houthi rebels, 32 pro-government soldiers and seven civilians dead.
The Yemen Civil War has been going for four years since Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, ousted the established government and Hadi. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has waged war against the Houthis to re-establish the previous government.
Officials say the fighting has entered residential areas, while Houthi fighters have blocked roads and set up checkpoints.
The port of Hudaydah is vital for getting relief supplies into the country, where 8 millions are starving or lack medical care.
An estimated 80 percent of all food comes through the port city, and there's growing concern the fighting could severely disrupt the flow of aid.
Planned peace talks have been pushed to late December, despite the United Nations warning of the worst famine in world history.
U.S aircraft have provided mid-air refueling support to the coalition with the understanding that civilian casualties will be minimized. Saturday, Saudi Arabia announced the United States would no longer provide support to coalition aircraft.
"The U.S. and coalition are planning to collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said. "The U.S. will also continue working with the Coalition and Yemen to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country."
A propaganda chief for the Houthi rebels deserted Friday, providing new information about the militia group's war crimes, Arab News reported. Yemen information minister Abdelsalam Jaber said the country has split into competing centers of power.
The Houthi people reject the "foreign domination of the country," Jaber added.