Aden: Yemeni forces allied with a Saudi-led coalition fought Houthi militia for control of the country`s largest air base north of Aden on Sunday, local residents said, hours before a humanitarian truce declared by the coalition was meant to start.
The al-Anad base, 50 km (30 miles) from the major southern port city, has been held by the Iranian-allied Houthi movement for much of a fourth-month-old civil war, and is seen as a strategic location commanding the approaches to Aden.
A Saudi-led Arab coalition allied with southern secessionist fighters retook much of Aden last week in the first significant ground victory in their campaigh to end Houthi control over much of Yemen and restore exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Houthi fighters and army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh captured Aden at the outset of the war, prompting Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia, an ally along with the United States.
A ceasefire declared by the coalition is due to take effect at 11.59 p.m. (2059 GMT) on Sunday for five days to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid. Four months of air raids and war have killed more than 3,500 people. Aden has suffered especially, with severe shortages of fuel, food and medicine.
The port city and other southern provinces have been largely inaccessible to U.N. food aid, and about 13 million people -- over half the population -- are thought in dire need of food.
Coalition warplanes carried out raids near Sanaa late on Saturday and shortly after dawn on Sunday, residents reported, adding that the targets included a military base near the city.
Ali Ahmedi, a spokesman for anti-Houthi forces in Aden, said fighting was going on at the al-Anad base, where he said southern anti-Houthi fighters had damaged equipment, aircraft and tanks controlled by Houthis.
Residents said forces of the so-called Southern Resistance, a secessionist movement allied with the coalition, had taken and Sabr, a northern district of Aden. The residents reported 25 Houthis and 10 Southern Resistance fighters had been killed.
Local combatants in Aden have been supported by coalition air strikes for nearly four months, but often fly the flag of a southern Yemen separatist movement rather than voicing loyalty to Hadi`s exiled government.
The Saudi-led coalition began its campaign on March 26, bidding to reverse months of advances by the Houthis after they moved from their northern stronghold last year, capturing the capital Sanaa and pushing south to Aden.
A senior Houthi commander, Abdul-Khaliq al-Houthi, was captured on Saturday by the Southern Resistance, the secessionist movement said on its official Twitter account.
Houthi officials could not immediately be contacted for comment. Reuters could not independently verify the information.
Yemenis say Abdul-Khaliq al-Houthi, a brother of Houthi leader Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, played an important role in the militia`s capture of Sanaa in September.