Yemen laid down ceasefire terms in August that included removing checkpoints, ending banditry, handing over all military equipment and weapons, and releasing civilians and military personnel.

Government officials said Houthi leaders twice rejected the terms, while al-Houthi said Saturday that his fighters had twice declared they wanted to end the conflict.

Renewed clashes

The failure of the two sides to reach a deal coincided with renewal of fighting.

Clashes overnight between Yemeni government forces and the Houthis left 24 fighters dead, military officers said on Sunday

The fighting broke out on three fronts near Saada, 240km north of the capital Sanaa, and government jets were carrying out raids in the area, officials said.

The Yemeni defence ministry news website said a Houthi leader, identified as Qaed Abu Malik, was killed along with 20 other comrades in the Safia area of Saada.

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The website also claimed that three other fighters were killed while they tried to sneak into farms near al-Aqab, also in Saada.

In an audio message released via the internet on Saturday, al-Houthi said the government must not allow the conflict to be used by "international and regional forces" as an excuse to drag Yemen into a wider war.

"It was these forces and the stupidity of the government that led them to launch attacks on its own people," he said.

"Nevertheless, and for the fourth time, I announce our acceptance of the [the government's] five conditions [for an end to the conflict] after the aggression stops ... the ball is now in the other party's court."

Al-Houthi's statement came on the heels of an announcement from his group on Monday that they would withdraw from Saudi territory they had occupied since November.

The Houthis have been engaged in sporadic fighting with Yemeni government forces since 2004, in a war they say is to defend their community against discrimination and the aggression of local government representatives in Saada.

The latest stage of the conflict broke out on August 11, when the military launched Operation Scorched Earth - an all-out assault against the group.

According to international aid organisations, more than 200,000 people have been displaced by the fighting since 2004.