Sanaa: Five Yemenis were killed on Saturday in shelling by government forces targeting the country's second city of Taez and in shooting, as clashes threatened to derail a fragile power-transfer deal.

Protests also continued in the capital Sanaa demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh be put on trial, in rejection of an amnesty he was given for signing a Gulf-tailored peace deal.

Three members of one Taez family were killed in shelling blamed on government forces, while two anti-government gunmen were shot dead during clashes with forces loyal to Saleh, witnesses said.

The five bodies were taken to a field hospital in Al-Rawda neighbourhood in central Taez, which is under the control of anti-Saleh protesters.

Saturday’s casualties take the death toll from clashes and bombardments by government forces since Thursday to 30, after nine people, including a young girl, two soldiers and colonel, were killed on Friday.

On Thursday, 16 others, including five soldiers and three gunmen, were killed.

The escalation of violence came hot on the heels of an order by Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi late on Friday to cease fire and negotiate a pullout of troops and militiamen from the city.

Hadi now holds the constitutional powers of Saleh who last month in Riyadh signed the Gulf-brokered power transfer deal under which his powers passed to his deputy and he remains honorary president for three months.

Gunmen backing anti-Saleh protesters control the centre of Taez and most of its streets, while government forces have taken up position on hills within the city and on its outskirts.

Witnesses said that forces loyal to Saleh continued to pound most neighbourhoods in Taez, while clashes raged in western parts of the city, including al-Hasab, Beir Basha, Wasi al-Qadi and al-Mire.

The bloodshed sparked recriminations between the government and parliamentary opposition, which signed the hard-won accord in Riyadh last month that had raised hopes of an end to the violence.

Prime minister-designate Mohammed Basindawa, chosen by the opposition to head a government of national unity under the power transfer agreement, has threatened to resign unless the loyalist offensive against Taez stops.

And opposition spokesman Mohammed Qahtan accused Saleh loyalists of blocking the formation of a key commission also stipulated by the accord that is to be given the task of reuniting the deeply divided security forces.