Aden (AFP) - Yemen's president returned from exile to southern city Aden Tuesday as his troops and allies in a Saudi-led coalition pressed one of their most important offensives yet against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.
After landing in the provisional capital, Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi went straight to the palace to "supervise" the offensive aimed at retaking Taez province, mostly controlled by the rebels, a presidential source said.
His arrival comes just days after Prime Minister Khaled Bahah announced the return of his government to Yemen.
The president has tried to return before.
In September, after six months of exile in Saudi Arabia, Hadi and Bahah returned to Aden but had to go back to Riyadh after a deadly attack on the provisional seat of government.
Hadi declared the southern port city Yemen's temporary capital after he escaped house arrest in the rebel-held capital Sanaa in February.
The following month, he fled into exile as the rebels and their allies entered Aden, prompting a Saudi-led coalition to launch a military intervention in support of his internationally recognised government.
The UN says that some 5,000 people, more than half of them civilians, have been killed in Yemen since the intervention began.
The president will be staying at the Maashiq presidential palace in the central Crater district of Aden.
The palace was severely damaged in the fighting that gripped Aden until July but was recently repaired by the United Arab Emirates, which along with Saudi Arabia is taking a lead role in supporting Hadi's government.
The coalition sent ground troops to Yemen in early August after months of air strikes.
- Loyalists advance towards Taez -
It has deployed significant reinforcements for the advance on Taez, Yemen's third city, military officials have said.
Taez has seen heavy fighting in recent months between pro-government forces and the Huthi Shiite rebels and their allies.
There are loyalist troops inside the city but they are besieged by the rebels.
Pro-Hadi forces and their coalition allies pushed north towards Taez overnight, capturing the village of Waziaa, southwest of the city, military sources said.
The rebel-controlled Saba news agency had said Monday that the insurgents repelled attempts to advance on four fronts towards Waziaa.
Further south, pro-Hadi fighters advanced towards Rahida, the province's second-largest city, following fierce clashes at nearby Shuraija, a military source said.
Loyalist forces deployed in Dhubab advanced towards the port city of Mocha on the Red Sea, an army officer said. "They are 30 kilometres (19 miles) away from Mocha," he said.
The fighting, which has been accompanied by Saudi-led air strikes, has left 26 rebels and 33 loyalists dead since Monday, pro-Hadi military sources said.
A 400-strong Sudanese force arrived in Aden this month in support of loyalist forces, joining 500 who arrived in October.
Sudanese forces from the strategic Al-Anad airbase in Lahj were taking part in the Taez operations, sources said Monday.
The fighting has thrown into question UN-brokered peace talks that had been planned for later this month.
A UN bid to launch peace talks in June failed over demands for a rebel withdrawal from seized territory, but this time, much effort has been put into ensuring there is agreement in advance on the agenda.
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen has been identified by the United Nations as one of the world's worst, with 80 percent of the country's population on the brink of famine.
The UN children's agency said Tuesday that more than half a million children face life-threatening severe malnutrition in the country.
"The situation continues to worsen," UNICEF head Anthony Lake told AFP. "What we need is a political settlement urgently."