More than 150 fighters have been killed in fighting around the port city of Hodeidah in Yemen over the weekend, officials have said.

Government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition pounded rebel-held positions with air strikes and naval artillery, while thousands of coalition troops launched a major ground offensive.

The coastal city on the Red Sea is a crucial entry point for imports, providing a lifeline for Yemeni civilians who are teetering on the brink of a famine.

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The 150 fighters who died came from both the rebel and government-backed forces, according to officials on both sides. Fearing reprisals, they spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Fighting was focused around the airport, at the eastern entrance to the city, and near a university 4km south of the port.

“This is the first time clashes have reached this point (the university),” one pro-coalition Yemeni military source said.

Residents said they could hear exchanges of fire in the area.

Yemen has been at war since March 2015 when Houthi rebels seized northern regions and forced the government into exile.

Since then, a Saudi-led coalition supporting the government has blockaded the rebel-held north and launched air strikes that have killed thousands.

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The conflict has let to three quarters of the population requiring some form of life-saving assistance and protection, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

An estimated 10,000 people have been killed and more than 8 million are at risk of starvation.

The United Nations Children’s Fund regional director said at the weekend that both pro-government and rebel authorities were making it impossible to deliver and distribute much-needed humanitarian aid to the country.dditional reporting by Associated Press and Reuters

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