At least 32 people have been killed in the past 24 hours in fighting between Yemeni government forces and Shiite rebels north of the capital Sana’a, medics said on Wednesday.

wpid-Yemen.jpgThe violence, which broke out on Tuesday, pitted troops backed by Sunni tribesmen, against Shiite Houthi rebels in the town of Shamlan.

Dead bodies could be seen on the streets, local residents told dpa.

Meanwhile, clashes erupted between security forces and the Houthis in the area of Haziz on the southern edge of Sana’a, where the rebel movement’s backers have in recent weeks pitched tents as part of escalating protests against the government.

“The Houthis have controlled most parts of Haziz and set up checkpoints,” a local official told dpa.

“Clashes are still going on,” he added.

The Houthis have expanded their influence this year from the far north of Yemen to Sana’a, after winning the support of major tribes previously sympathetic to their Sunni rivals.

The movement’s followers have recently staged a series of rallies and set up camps near key ministries in Sana’a to press for the removal of the government and reinstatement of full energy subsidies.

Earlier this month, Yemeni President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi offered to dismiss the government and partially reinstate fuel subsidies – an offer rejected by the Houthis.

UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, was due to meet with the Houthi leader, Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, in the northern city of Saada, Yemeni media reported.

Benomar will seek to convince al-Houthi to accept Hadi’s deal to defuse the crisis.

The authorities accuse the Houthis of trying to reinstall the rule of the hereditary Ziaidi imams – who were toppled by a republican revolution in northern Yemen in 1962 – and of receiving support from Iran.

Yemen also faces a secessionist movement in the south and an insurgency by al-Qaeda militants.


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