At least 19 people have been killed this week and multiple explosions rocked the streets of Yemen's capital-Sanaa, with renewed fights between a powerful tribal group and President Ali Abdullah Saleh's forces, officials said on Wednesday, reported Reuters.
Saleh has been pressurized by world powers to sign a Gulf-led deal to end his three-decade rule and stop spreading chaos in an unstable Yemen, a haven for al Qaeda militants and neighbor to the world's biggest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia.
Kuwait, a part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), after an unsuccessful attempt at brokering a power transfer deal, said that it had evacuated its diplomats from Yemen. Qatar, another GCC member, has also suspended most operations there.Italy too has shut its mission, citing threats against Western embassies.
Witnesses cited having heard several blasts but were not sure of the cause or damage near the Hasaba district, the focal point of fighting last week that killed at least 115 people and pushed the country closer to civil war.
There are very powerful explosions. Sounds like missiles or mortars. May God protect us, a Hasaba resident said according to the report.
After a respite of several hours, huge explosions began shaking northern Sanaa and nearby areas late on Wednesday, said residents.There was no immediate report of casualties or damage at the scene.
This week, there have been three main flashpoints in the country -- the fighting in the capital, government troops gunning down protesters in Taiz in the south and a battle with al Qaeda and Islamic militants in the coastal city of Zinjibar.
Overnight fights near Sanaa airport was also reported by the residents.The airport was closed briefly last week during fights between Saleh's forces and opponents within the powerful Hashed tribal confederation, who are led by Sadeq al-Ahmar.
Fourteen soldiers were killed in overnight fighting with the tribesmen, Reuters cited Defense Ministry website as saying.
Local media reported troops having retaken a number of government buildings seized by tribesmen and found several bodies inside.
Medical officials told Reuters at least five other people had been killed in the recent fighting, which may have entered a new phase with some troops in armoured vehicles joining the opposition, suggesting more military defections from Saleh.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saleh received a very good offer from Gulf Arab nations to end the crisis and suggested she saw no hope of a resolution without his departure.
We cannot expect this conflict to end unless President Saleh and his government move out of the way to permit the opposition and civil society to begin a transition to political and economic reform, Clinton told a news conference.
Almost as a response to Clinton's remarks, a Yemeni government spokesman said Saleh was prepared to sign the Gulf-sponsored power transition plan and that the timing of the signing would be set soon through consultation between Yemen and the GCC, local media reported.
Saleh has already disappointed his rich Gulf Arab neighbors by three times agreeing to step down, only to change his mind at the last minute.
Yemen, which is at the verge of a financial ruin, has about a third of its 23 million population facing chronic hunger. Some military leaders broke away from Saleh in March after his troops fired on protesters calling for an end to his 33-year-old rule.
The president's close relatives, who control Yemen's most lucrative sources of revenue and state assets, are pressuring him not to give up power, a diplomatic source told Reuters.
Locals and Yemeni troops have been fighting to recapture the coastal city of Zinjibar, which was taken over by several hundred al Qaeda and Islamist militants at the weekend.