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Yemeni troops battle Shiite rebels in Aden neighborhoods
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Yemeni troops battle Shiite rebels in Aden neighborhoods

Firefighters work to extinguish fire following rocket attacks by Shiite rebels known as Houthis at storage tanks of an oil refinery in the port city of Aden, Yemen, Tuesday, July 14, 2015. Yemeni forces battling the Shiite rebels in the country's south said they took control on Tuesday of the airport in the strategic port city of Aden, driving the rebels there into the part of the city jutting out into the sea. (AP Photo/Abo Muhammed)

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni troops, backed by Saudi-led airstrikes, battled Shiite rebels Wednesday in neighborhoods they previously controlled in the southern port city of Aden, a day after they pushed them out of the local airport, military officials said.

The offensive, closely coordinated with the Saudi-led coalition, is a serious blow to the Shiite rebels and allied forces who have been trying to seize control of the strategic city since March.

Houthi officials said they were taken by surprise by the new push. A senior military official said the troops involved have been trained in Saudi Arabia, a program that began about two months ago. He said the troops also received new equipment, including armored vehicles.

The official said fighting intensified Wednesday in Crater and Mualla, neighborhoods that house the presidential palace, government offices and ports. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing military operations.

Late Wednesday, exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s office said he was sending several government officials, including the ministers of transport and interior, to Aden.

Saudi-led airstrikes continued across the country Wednesday, and the Houthis said in an announcement that their forces fired rockets across the border into Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition has been targeting the Iran-allied Houthis and their allies since March in a bid to stop their power grab across Yemen.

The strikes and ground fighting came despite a U.N.-brokered truce — which is due to expire Thursday at the end of Ramadan.

On Wednesday, U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien called again for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian pause in Yemen. O’Brien said despite the fighting, humanitarian workers have been able to distribute some aid but “it is not nearly enough and we need access and funds to rapidly scale up critical humanitarian supplies and services.”

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Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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