Sana’a: Clashes between Yemeni forces and Al Houthi rebels in the northern city of Amran claimed the lives of 13 civilians, who died when their houses collapsed, a medic said Wednesday.

The bodies of the 13, among them five children and two women, were taken to the city’s public hospital, the medic said, adding that they died after “their houses collapsed in overnight clashes.”

The fighting erupted when rebels attacked government forces near the university of Amran, in the western district of the city, a tribal chief said, adding that “dozens of houses and shops” were destroyed.

The Al Houthis - also known as Ansarullah - have advanced out of their northern mountain strongholds towards the capital in a suspected attempt to expand their sphere of influence as Yemen is reorganised into six regions.

A new round of clashes with rebels erupted in Yemen’s north last week ago, ending an 11-day truce agreed after mediation backed by United Nations envoy Jamal Bin Omar.

Fighting between troops and rebels neared Sana’a on Friday, with clashes reaching the town of Bani Matar, only 15km northwest of the capital, tribal and security sources said.

Al Houthis have been battling the central government for years from their Saada heartland, complaining of marginalisation under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down in 2012 after a year-long uprising.

The rebels said a federalisation plan agreed in February following national talks as part of a political transition would divide Yemen into rich and poor regions.

They seized areas of Amran province in fighting with tribes in February that killed more than 150 people.

In addition to the rebellion, the government is also facing a southern separatist movement and an Al Qaida insurgency.