The Latest: Diplomat says 4 UAE troops died in Yemen battle

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FILE - In this Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, file photo, a Yemeni soldier allied to the country's internationally recognized government unslings his machine gun on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen. Yemen's yearslong war between Shiite rebels and a Saudi-led coalition backing its exiled government has escalated with an assault on the insurgent-held port city of Hodeida. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) The Latest on the battle for Hodeida in Yemen (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

The United Arab Emirates' ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva says the four Emirati troops who were killed in Yemen were taking part in the campaign to retake the port city of Hodeida.

Ambassador Obaid Salem al-Zaabi made the comments during a news conference with journalists Thursday.

Al-Zaabi declined to offer further specifics about the soldiers' deaths.

Asked whether he worried the Shiite rebels known as Houthis would damage the crucial Yemen port, the ambassador said: "They will damage it, but we have plans for that."

He added that the UAE and the Saudi-led coalition went ahead with the campaign despite knowing that international aid agencies fear it could lead to a humanitarian crisis. The Red Sea port of Hodeida is the main entry for food into a country already on the brink of famine.

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1:30 p.m.

The Yemeni government-controlled SABA news agency has reported that government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have taken control of a town south of the port city of Hodeida.

SABA reported late Wednesday the forces captured the town of Nakhilia in the district of ad-Durayhimi about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) south of Hodeida International Airport.

The news agency says fierce battles have raged between government forces and Shiite rebel Houthis in areas on the outskirts of Hodeida.

The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's exiled government began an assault on the key port city of Hodeida on Wednesday.

Hodeida is the main entry for food into a country already on the brink of famine. That has raised warnings from aid agencies that Yemen's humanitarian disaster could deepen.

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11:30 a.m.

Fighting around the Yemen port city of Hodeida has resumed as a Saudi-led coalition tries to retake it from Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

Witnesses described heavy fighting to the city's south on Thursday morning, near its airport.

The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's exiled government began the assault on the port city of Hodeida (hoh-DY'-duh) on Wednesday.

Hodeida is the main entry for food into a country already on the brink of famine. That has raised warnings from aid agencies that Yemen's humanitarian disaster could deepen.

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