Abdulmalik al-Huthi urges supporters to resist pro-government forces intent on recapturing Sanaa
Sanaa (AFP) - Fighting persisted between Saudi-backed loyalists and Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen on Thursday after the rebel leader urged supporters to resist pro-government forces intent on recapturing the capital.
The defiant stance came after Yemen's warring parties on Sunday concluded UN-sponsored peace talks in Switzerland with no major breakthrough, but agreed to meet again on January 14.
At least 35 rebels were killed as pro-government forces pressed their offensive in Nihm, 40 kilometres (25 miles) outside rebel-held Sanaa, loyalist sources said.
Fighting raged in the west of third city Taez, which is under rebel seige, preventing supplies from entering, military and humanitarian sources said.
"Huthi militias still prevent supplies, medicine and drinking water from entering the city," local NGO member Ishraq al-Maqtari told AFP.
During the peace talks, both sides had agreed to "allow for a full and immediate resumption of humanitarian assistance" into the capital of Taez province.
Forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi see recapturing Taez province as key to regaining control of central and northern regions, including Sanaa province.
The Saudi-led coalition supporting the loyalists on Thursday bombed rebel positions in Taez, including in Mokha city on the Red Sea, and in northern Jawf province, loyalist sources said.
Pro-government forces clashed with rebels as they sought to reinforce their positions in Jawf and Marib province east of the capital, military and tribal sources said.
Huthis and their allies, army forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, deployed armoured vehicles and tanks in the capital's northern and eastern suburbs, tribal sources and residents said.
Late on Wednesday, the Huthi leader urged supporters to resist loyalists set on recapturing the capital.
"We have no choice but to resist... until our people achieve their freedom and independence," Abdulmalik al-Huthi said in a speech on the Muslim celebration of Mawlid marking the Prophet Mohammed's birthday.
"Don't bet on the UN whose role conforms to American policy," he said.
On Wednesday the UN Security Council urged the opposing sides to respect a frequently-violated ceasefire and to resume talks.
The Huthis, a Shiite minority from Yemen's north, seized the capital Sanaa last year and then advanced south to second city Aden, forcing Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.
Following territorial gains by loyalist troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition, Hadi returned to Aden in November after six months in exile.
The conflict has escalated dramatically since Saudi-led air strikes against the rebels began in March, with nearly 6,000 people killed according to UN figures.