Fighting between pro-government forces and separatists in Yemen's second city Aden has killed around 40 people and injured 260 others including civilians, the U.N. said Sunday.
"Scores of civilians have been killed and wounded since August 8 when fighting broke out in the city of Aden. Preliminary reports indicate that as many as 40 people have been killed and 260 injured," a U.N. statement said.
"It is heart-breaking that during Eid al-Adha, families are mourning the death of their loved ones instead of celebrating together in peace and harmony," U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen Lise Grande said.
"Our main concern right now is to dispatch medical teams to rescue the injured," she said.
"We are also very worried by reports that civilians trapped in their homes are running out of food and water," Grande added, urging the belligerents to protect civilians.
"Families need to be able to move freely and safely to secure the things they need to survive.
"We are asking authorities to guarantee unimpeded access for humanitarian organizations," she said.
The clashes flared on Wednesday between fighters of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and combatants from the so-called Security Belt trained by the United Arab Emirates who are dominated by separatists seeking an independent south.
The government of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi is backed by a Saudi-led military coalition that includes the UAE as a key partner in the fight against Iran-aligned Shiite Huthi rebels.
The southern port city of Aden has been the base of the Hadi government since it was driven from the capital Sanaa by the rebels more than four years ago.
The coalition has called for a ceasefire and an "urgent meeting" between the warring parties.
Both the Yemeni government and separatists said early Sunday they backed Riyadh's call for dialogue and a suspension of fighting.
But in a sermon to mark the start of the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival, Southern Transitional Council (STC) vice president Hani bin Breik said his group — which is seeking secession — will not "negotiate under threat".
The UAE is a major partner in a Saudi-led military campaign that is supporting Yemen's internationally recognized government against Iran-allied Houthi rebels. But ties between the Yemeni government and the UAE have soured recently, as the UAE has been accused of also supporting separatists in Yemen.
In May 2018, the UAE, a pillar of the Saudi-led coalition, faced anger for deploying troops to the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea. In defiance of the UAE's move on the island, Saudi Arabia deployed troops to Yemen's Socotra as a confidence-building measure over complaints by Yemen's government that the UAE deployed troops there without its permission, revealing growing rivalry between the two allies.
The UAE entered Yemen's war in March 2015 alongside Saudi Arabia to back Yemen's government, which the Houthis had pushed out of the capital, Sanaa. The UAE has largely handled ground operations in the conflict while the Saudis have carried out airstrikes.