Saudi-led forces leading an assault on Yemen’s rebel-held port city of Hodeida have seized control of its international airport.
Fierce fighting continued around what is the main gateway for food and aid supplies into Yemen, which is on the brink of famine.
The media office of the pro-alliance Yemeni military said on Twitter: “Army forces backed by the resistance and the Arab alliance freed Hodeida international airport from the grip of the Houthi militia.”
Fighting in the airport area has led to the closure of the northern entrance of Hodeida, which leads to Sanaa, residents said.
This has blocked a key exit out of the city and made it more difficult to transport goods from the port.
Aly Omar, whose son was wounded in an airstrike, said he and his family spent three days trapped in the Manzar neighbourhood next to the airport as fighting raged around them.
He said: “We didn’t have any food, or drink or anything, not even water.
“I call on the United Nations and the Red Cross to open a way for us to get out of the situation we’re in. Our kids, women and elderly are stuck.”
The number of dead rose to 280 by the fourth day of the campaign which is aiming to drive out the Iranian-backed Shia rebels, known as Houthis, from the Red Sea port of Hodeida.
The Saudi-led coalition began its assault on Wednesday and Emirati forces are leading ground forces combined with their own troops, irregular militiamen and soldiers backing Yemen’s exiled government.
Saudi Arabia has provided air support with targeting guidance and refuelling is being supplied by the US.
Aid groups and the United Nations cautioned the coalition from launching the assault amid fears that a drawn-out conflict could force a shutdown of Hodeida’s port at a time when a halt in aid risks tipping millions into starvation.
About 70% of Yemen’s food enters the country through the port, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies.
Some two-thirds of the country’s population of 27 million rely on aid and 8.4 million are already at risk of starvation.
The coalition says it had no choice but to launch the assault as the port provided millions of dollars for the Houthis through customs controls.
They also say the Houthis have been using the port to smuggle weapons through, although UN experts have said this is “unlikely” as incoming ships require UN permission and are randomly searched.
The UN and Western governments say Iran has supplied the Houthis with weapons ranging from assault rifles to the ballistic missiles they have fired deep into Saudi Arabia, including at the capital, Riyadh.
The coalition has blocked most ports and allowed supplies into Hodeida in co-ordination with the UN.
The air campaign and fighting have disrupted other supply lines which has triggered an economic crisis that makes food too expensive for many to afford.
Aid agencies and the UN evacuated international staff from the city before the offensive began.
Injured people who are able to flee have been driving onto Aden, about 195 miles away, after being treated at a hospital in Mocha on the way, according to the aid group Doctors Without Borders.
Thousands remain trapped in the city and around the airport because of the fighting.
Relief worker Saber Wasel said: “Families are trapped inside and it is difficult leaving as they are coming under airstrikes and bombardment by both parties of the war.
“It was a hard night for citizens because of the intensity of the strikes and gunfire.”
The coalition has implemented an air, sea and land embargo on Yemen since 2015.
The airstrikes and Houthi bombardment have left more than 10,000 people dead and two million displaced along with devastation of the country’s infrastructure.
Many hospitals and health centres have been destroyed which has created a cholera epidemic.