SANAA, July 25 (Reuters) – Fighting broke out on Sunday between a pro-government tribe and Shi’ite rebels in Yemen, hours after the two sides agreed to a truce following battles last week which threatened to re-ignite a civil war.
Tribal leader Sheikh Saghir Ibn Aziz blamed the rebels, named Houthis after the clan name of their leaders, for the renewed fighting after clashes killed up to 70 people last week.
“The Houthis did not respect the agreement and attacked us. We responded,” he told Reuters by telephone.
Al Arabiya television said the latest fighting, which it said killed four rebels, broke out after the tribesmen did not withdraw from a position as demanded by the rebels, who said it was part of the truce accords.
There was no immediate comment by the rebels on their website.
Last week’s fighting, in which government forces were also involved, was the bloodiest in the north since a truce in February ended a war between the state and the rebels that has raged intermittently since 2004 and last year drew in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
Earlier on Sunday, Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh called for a permanent end to fighting in the north, especially in Saada province, the rebels’ stronghold.
“Six wars are enough. Yes to security, stability and peace in Saada. No to the latest war,” Saleh said in remarks carried by regional television stations.
Yemen’s Western and Saudi allies want Sanaa, also trying to quell southern separatism, to resolve domestic conflicts such as the northern war so it can focus on fighting a resurgent regional arm of al Qaeda, seen as a bigger international threat.
Tension between the rebels and the Ibn Aziz tribe, from the same Zaidi sect of Shi’ite Islam but which sided with the state during the civil war, has been growing for months.
The tension exploded into violence after rebels attacked Sheikh Saghir’s home in early July, killing three of his followers. Clashes broke out again last week, prompting government forces to intervene to assist the tribe. Five government soldiers were among those killed.
Qatar has offered to revive a 2008 peace deal it brokered between Sanaa and the rebels to end the war, which displaced 350,000 people. (Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Cynthia Johnston and Firouz Sedarat)