Yemenite Rebel Warns of Escalation

SAN'A, Yemen — A Shiite rebel leader in Yemen warned Sunday that his group will escalate its fight against the government if the army continues an offensive that has left almost 20 rebels and soldiers dead over the past two days.

Six rebels and six soldiers were killed in clashes overnight Sunday in and around the mountainous rebel stronghold of Saada in northern Yemen, according to a security official and an eyewitness. A day earlier, three soldiers and four rebels were killed in similar clashes.

Thousands have died in violence between the rebels and the government of this predominantly Sunni country since the rebellion erupted in 2004.

Rebel leader Abdel Malak al-Hawthi said Sunday that tribal chiefs have stepped in to mediate a new cease-fire, but warned that his group would escalate fighting "if the government insists on the option of war."