Ongoing fighting near the Saudi border in northern Yemen has killed more than 40 rebels and 35 government troops over the past three days, the Associated Press reported on Saturday, with both sides in the battle violating a ceasefire that was meant to facilitate peace talks for the war-torn country.
On Friday, the UN's special envoy for Yemen voiced "deep concern" over the "numerous reports of violations of the cessation of hostilities." Nevertheless, Yemeni delegates from both sides of the conflict arrived at a Swiss hotel in Biel on Saturday to attend the fifth day of UN-backed peace talks.
Both the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed troops of ousted Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi have been implicated in routine, gross violations of human rights, such as shelling civilian areas and setting landmines. Human Rights Watch recently accused the rebels of shuttering a number of civil society organizations and arbitrarily detaining activists in the capital Sanaa, which the Houthis still control.
Related: The Future of Yemen Hangs in the Balance at the UN Talks in Switzerland
On Saturday, both sides agreed to form a committee to oversee the fragile ceasefire. The committee will be headed by a Lebanese army general and consist of representatives from the Houthi rebel movement and the Hadi government. The supposed one-week truce was apparently shattered when Saudi-backed Hadi loyalists crossed over from Saudi Arabia and seized the strategic border town of Haradh in the Red Sea province of Hajjah. Pro-Hadi troops also captured a military base from the Houthis. Houthi delegates threatened to suspend the peace talks unless the UN specifically condemned the actions of the Hadi forces, the AP reported.
Saturday's peace talks marked the first time that Houthi and Hadi representatives have met face-to-face since Wednesday evening, when the Houthis rejected demands for the release of detained senior officials, including Yemen's minister of defense and Hadi's own brother.
"Our meeting this week in Switzerland comes at a crucial moment in which threats and dangers abound and challenges are increasing both locally and regionally," said Ismail Cheikh Ahmed, the UN's special envoy. "The failure to reach a solution will have disastrous human and material consequences for the nation."
Follow VICE News on Twitter: @vicenews
Reuters contributed to this report.
Watch the VICE News documentary Inside War-Torn Yemen: Sanaa Under Attack: