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63 killed, dozens wounded in fighting, airstrikes in southern Yemen

SANAA/ADEN, April 25 (Xinhua) -- At least 63 people were killed and dozens of others wounded in fighting between the Shiite Houthi group and tribal fighters loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, as well as Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen's southern provinces on Saturday, sources said, as the warring sides have no intention to cease fire after more than one month of battles.

The officials said Saudi-led air raids pounded gatherings of the Houthis on Saturday morning in Shakra area in the southern province of Abyan, killing at least 20 Houthis and wounding scores of others. They said Houthi militia were moving to reinforce their fronts in the neighbouring Aden province.

Meanwhile, pro-Hadi tribal fighters ambushed a convoy of the Houthi gunmen in Lowder city in Abyan province, killing at least nine, according to the same officials.

A senior army commander in the southern province of al-Dhalea said that "intense clashes erupted between Houthi forces and pro-Hadi militia since Saturday morning, which destroyed a number of government offices and residential buildings."

"Intitial reports coming from the battlefield indicate that more than 12 Houthi gunmen and eight tribal fighters were killed and 30 others wounded from both sides," the army commander said on condition of anonymity.

The Houthi group, which took over the capital Sanaa in September last year, has been advancing to southern provinces after Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia last month when his last refuge of Aden city was besieged by the Houthi fighters.

In the southern Lahj province that is on the north of the Aden port city, the pro-Hadi tribal militia ambushed a convoy of the Houthi group, killing about seven people at the scene, a security source said.

"The pro-Hadi gunmen rained the Houthi's convoy with heavy gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades that destroyed two armored trucks and set others on fire," the security source based in Lahj added.

Meanwhile, warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition forces intensified airstrikes on the Houthi-controlled sites in and around Aden city Aden where fierce street fighting have lasted for more than a month.

Local residents told Xinhua that "the Saudi-led fighter jets bombed several times the presidential palace in Crater district, two historic sites, immigration and passport centres as well as two schools that were all held by Houthi forces."

An official at Aden's supreme security committee confirmed that warships of the Saudi-led coalition forces were also engaged in the shelling against a number of Houthi-manned checkpoints inside Aden, without giving details of any casualties.

About seven members of the Houthi group were killed and 15 others wounded during fighting against pro-Hadi tribal militia over the control of Aden international airport on Saturday, a pro-Houthi army source told Xinhua anonymously.

The death toll have reached about 800 since the battles began in late March, and more than 3,000 people were wounded across the country. Hundreds of thousands of people, especially in the southern regions, were forced to flee their homes.

Marie Claire Feghali, the spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sanaa, said Saturday that the ICRC convoy with medical assistance was prevented from reaching the Aden city where fierce fighting was taking place.

The ICRC demanded all parties should allow medical assistance to be delivered to those who urgently need it, she said.

Saudi Arabia started on March 26 airstrikes against the Houthi group and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullash Saleh who was accused of supporting the Houthis to overthrow Hadi, aiming to reinstate the Yemeni government.

It announced on Tuesday the halt of air raids, saying the coalition forces had eliminated threats of the Houthi group to the regional countries. However, the warplanes of the Saudi-led forces still carried out daily operations in Yemen against the Houthis and Saleh since then.

Saleh on Friday urged the Houthi group to accept the resolutions of the UN Security Council to withdraw from cities they seized since September last year and handed over weapons they took from army camps, which was rejected by the Houthi group one day later.

Houthi spokesman Mohamed al-Bikhety said Saturday that "Saleh's proposal reflects his position but not the Houthi group."

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