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Fighting rages in Yemen despite truce

Yemen's Vice President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar accused the rebels of 449 violations within 24 hours of the ceasefire taking effect
Yemeni pro-government forces fire towards Houthi rebels in the hills of the Sharija region on the borders of Taiz and Lahj provinces on 25 September, 2016 (AFP)

Fierce gun battles erupted overnight between Yemeni rebels and pro-government forces along the border with Saudi Arabia despite a three-day ceasefire due to end late Saturday, military officials said.

Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in support of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi also bombed suspected Houthi rebel missile launchers east of the capital Sanaa late Friday, a military official said.

The air raids came after Patriot missiles shot down two rebel missiles on Thursday over Marib, east of the rebel-held capital.

UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said on Friday the ceasefire was "fragile but largely holding," urging all parties "to show restraint, avoid further escalation, and strictly adhere to the 72-hour ceasefire".

The truce took effect just before midnight Wednesday to allow aid deliveries in Yemen, where the war has killed thousands and left millions homeless and hungry.

The UN envoy is liaising with the parties in an attempt to extend the ceasefire in order "to create a conducive environment for a long-lasting peace" in Yemen, he said in a statement.

He met late Friday with Yemen's Vice President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar in Riyadh, according to Yemeni state media.

Ahmar said government forces were "exercising restraint" and stressed that there were orders to "abide by the truce and respect UN efforts".

But he accused the rebels of 449 violations within 24 hours of the ceasefire taking effect.

A senior rebel, Hassan al-Sharafi, was killed in border clashes Friday night in the northern province of Saada, the fiefdom of the Iran-backed Houthis, military officials said.

The rebels seized two hills in the Alb border area from government forces who had previously advanced from Saudi Arabia, a military official said.

It is the sixth ceasefire attempt since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in March last year to support Hadi's government after Houthis overran much of the impoverished country.

Nearly 6,900 people have been killed in the conflict, more than half of them civilians, while an additional three million are displaced and millions more need food aid.

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