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Forces in Yemen's Taiz close to breaking siege?

Forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed president have claimed to have recaptured the western entrance to the rebel-besieged city of Taiz. Saudi-led coalition jets have also bombed al Qaeda positions inside Aden.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels who took control Taiz nearly a year ago acknowledged heavy fighting in Yemen's third largest city on Saturday, saying reinforcements were being called in.

Medics and local sources said 48 people had been killed and at least 120 wounded on Saturday as forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi pressed their offensive to retake the southwestern city for a third day.

The news agency Saba News reported that rebels had killed 27 combatants loyal to Hadi.

Military sources quoted by the French AFP news agency said loyalist fighters had pushed Houthi rebels out of Taiz's western and southern suburbs.

Retaking the city's eastern region would be more difficult, they said, because this was held by an elite army unit loyal to former Yemeni president and Houthi ally Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Jemen Kindersoldat Huthi Rebellen

A child combatant filmed in Taiz last August

Hadi's deputy, Khaled Bahad, told reporters in Aden, that the government planned to send aid to Taiz, where

tens of thousands of residents are besieged.

Last summer, loyalists retook Aden, Yemen's southern port city, along with five southern provinces.

Jets bomb jihadist sites in Aden

On Saturday, fighter jets from the Saudi-led coalition struck four times in the Mansura residential district of Aden, reportedly killing at least 12 al Qaeda fighters.

Medical officials told The Associated Press that five civilians injured by shrapnel and gunfire were taken to a local hospital.

Officials said it was the first time that the Saudi-led coalition had bombing Islamist positions inside Aden.

Witnesses said the airstrikes were launched after jihadis shot at an Apache helicopter.

Al Qaeda and "Islamic State," another jihadi group widely known for seizing swathes of Syria and Iraq, have expanded footholds in southern and eastern Yemen during its 18-month civil war.

The conflict has claimed more than 5,800 lives and left more than 80 percent of Yemen's population in

desperate need of food, water and other essentials,

according to the United Nations.

Yemeni ceasefire akin to Syria?

Visiting Saudi Arabia on Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he and Saudi Foreign Minister Abel al-Jubeir had agreed to work toward a ceasefire in Yemen in a process "similar" to the one that has largely held for two weeks in Syria.

Last month, the UN envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said "deep divisions" were preventing progress toward a Yemeni ceasefire.

The Houthis and troops loyal to former president Saleh remain entrenched in much of the northern half of Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.

ipj/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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