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Saudi forces shoot down missile as Yemen talks fizzle out

Saudi Arabia intercepts missile fired from Yemen, hours after peace talks break up without result and no agreement to extend ceasefire
Fighting has continued to rage in Yemen despite efforts in Switzerland (AFP)

Saudi Arabia said it had shot down a missile fired from Yemen, hours after peace talks in Switzerland finished with no breakthrough and the failure to renew a largely unsuccessful ceasefire.

In a brief statement, the Saudi-led coalition said air defences stopped the missile from reaching the kingdom's southern Jazan district. "Air forces immediately destroyed the launch pad inside Yemen," the coalition said.

Saudi Arabia has deployed Patriot missile batteries designed to counter ballistic missiles fired by Houthis in Yemen, who are fighting the Saudi-backed government of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

The attack came three days after Saudi air defences intercepted a ballistic missile launched from Yemen, the same day a second missile struck a desert area east of Najran city.

The talks between Yemen's government and the Iran-supported Houthis concluded on Sunday in Switzerland without a major breakthrough.

Abdulmalik al-Mikhlafi, foreign minister in Hadi's government, told Middle East Eye that Hadi was prepared to extend the ceasefire: "President Hadi has asked me to announce a renewal of the ceasefire with condition that the other side respects it too," he said.

But that statement was later dismissed by the Houthis, with a source who had attended the talks telling MEE: "Considering the last ceasefire, the Houthi delegation is not convinced. 

"A ceasefire needs prior acceptance by the other side and arrangements between them, not a declaration from one side."

Houthi and Saudi forces continued to fight all through a seven-day ceasefire, which was announced by both sides' political leaders in the run-up to the Swiss talks.

On Monday, clashes continued in the north of Yemen, while there was a lull in fighting in the south, even outside third city Taiz under seige from rebels, pro-government forces said.

Ten rebels were killed as loyalists pressed their offensive in Nihm, 40km outside the capital, they said.

Loyalists also advanced towards the Saudi border post of Baqa in northern Jawf province. 

The Saudi-led coalition meanwhile bombed rebel positions in Khawlan, east of Sanaa, witnesses said.

UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced in Bern on Sunday that a new round of talks would be held on 14 January.

The conflict has escalated dramatically since Saudi-led air strikes began in March, with more than 5,800 people killed and 27,000 wounded since then, according to UN figures.

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