A TRUCE reached by Yemen’s government and dissidents, who have been locked in bloody battles for weeks, collapsed as soon as it was announced, with fresh fighting rocking the capital.

Fifteen people were killed in Sanaa and Taez, most of them in Yemen’s second largest city, medical and tribal sources said.

Medics said at least seven people were killed in Taez, including a seven-year-old child, a woman and a policeman, during what residents said was random shelling by government forces of neighbourhoods.

The interior ministry said four policemen also died.

In Sanaa, the truce failed to take hold. Tribal sources said at least one man was killed and nine people were wounded when shelling rocked the northern Al-Hasaba neighbourhood.

The government and dissident general Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar had reached a ceasefire agreement overnight, officials said..

Tribal forces in Al-Hasaba led by powerful chief Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, who backs the general and has thrown his support behind pro-democracy protests across Yemen, also agreed to the ceasefire, sources in his office said.

The government said the truce went into immediate effect, but Sheikh Sadiq’s brother, Sheikh Hemyar, said President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s troops continued to attack the Ahmars’ homes.

“The truce was not respected for one second by the government,” Sheikh Hemyar said by telephone. “As I talk to you, our homes are being shelled” in the district of Al-Hasaba.

Residents in Al-Hasaba confirmed that the area was being raked by gunfire and explosions.

Gunfire also rang out near Change Square, the epicentre of anti-regime protests outside Sanaa University, where the dissident general’s troops have been deployed since March, local residents said.

The overnight announcement came just hours after Mr Saleh’s troops opened fire on thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in the capital killing three people and wounding at least 40 others.

A government crackdown on unarmed protesters in Sanaa has left hundreds dead and thousands wounded since January.

This is the third ceasefire breached since May between the government and tribal chief Sadiq, whose well-armed tribesman have been engaged in fierce battles with Saleh’s troops in the capital’s Hasaba district.

However, it was the first declared truce between Mr Saleh and General Mohsen, who defected in March.

Gen Mohsen’s First Armoured Brigade troops have been battling Saleh loyalists in the capital, stoking fears in the international community that Yemen was headed towards civil war.

Mr Saleh has for months refused to step down after 33 years in power, despite repeated regional and international calls for him to do so.

The escalating violence in the country provoked a UN resolution last week that called for Mr Saleh to immediately sign a Gulf-brokered power transition plan in return for immunity from prosecution.

On Monday, Mr Saleh welcomed the UN resolution but did not specify when or if he would sign the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative.

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