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Dozens killed in Yemen as peace talks continue in Switzerland

Published 16/12/2015

Shiite tribesmen, known as Houthis, hold their weapons during a tribal gathering showing support for the Houthi movement in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)
Shiite tribesmen, known as Houthis, hold their weapons during a tribal gathering showing support for the Houthi movement in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)

Clashes are under way along several front lines in Yemen, killing at least 42 people and undermining a day-old ceasefire and peace talks taking place in Switzerland.

The UN-brokered talks that began on Tuesday were meant to give Yemen's warring factions a chance to find a solution to the conflict that has engulfed the Arab world's poorest country.

At the same time, a ceasefire went into effect on the ground, meant to last a week. But as fighters on both sides ignored the truce, expectations for the negotiations were low.

In the capital Sanaa, the rebels - also known as Houthis - warned on Wednesday that it will not be possible to continue the talks unless the ceasefire holds.

According to security officials, fighting was under way for a second day on Wednesday in the provinces of Ibb, Bayda, Marib, Jawf, and Taiz.

In the besieged city of Taiz, shelling by Houthis killed six civilians, said the officials who are neutral in the conflict.

They also said 42 people were killed since the ceasefire started, adding that field commanders and fighters from both sides had been ignoring ceasefire orders, a worrying sign that political leadership was losing control of fighters on the ground.

Yemen's conflict pits the rebels and army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against forces of the internationally recognised government, allied with southern separatists, religious extremists and other militants. The government is backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

Other independent officials later said that negotiations were under way over the release of some 500 prisoners from both sides.

According to UN figures, the war in Yemen has killed at least 5,884 people since March, when the fighting escalated after the Saudi-led coalition began launching air strikes targeting the rebels.

Previous efforts to end the violence have ended in failure, as the government insisted the Houthis comply with a UN resolution that requires them to hand over weapons and withdraw from territory they captured over the past year, including the capital.

The Houthis have demanded the country's political future be decided through negotiations.

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