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A ceasefire negotiated by Yemen's vice president and Western diplomats has gone into effect in Sanaa, the capital, bringing relative calm after three days of deadly violence, officials have said.
The defence ministry said Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the vice-president, had called for the ceasefire on Tuesday to end clashes between pro- and anti-government forces in Sanaa, the AFP news agency said.
The truce was negotiated by Hadi and several foreign envoys, including the US and the British ambassadors in the country, officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to comment to the media.
The ceasefire was implemented at 1600 local time on Tuesday, bringing relative calm to the city, with witnesses reporting only sporadic gunfire.
The ceasefire ended a third day of deadly violence between loyalists of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and government opponents in which more than 70 people were killed.
Earlier on Tuesday, heavy shelling and machine gun fire rocked Sanaa, killing at least 26 people and injuring several others, witnesses and medical sources said.
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Violence had reached "unprecedented" levels in Sanaa, the International Committee of the Red Cross said, citing "very worrying" reports of armed confrontations taking place at one of the main hospitals in Sanaa.
"[ICRC] called on Yemeni authorities, pro-democracy protesters and others involved in the violence to spare lives after scores were killed in the past 72 hours alone," Valerie Petitpierre, deputy head of the ICRC's delegation in Yemen, said in a statement on Tuesday.
In the latest clashes, five people were wounded when two rockets hit a protest camp, witnesses told Al Jazeera.
More than 100 people have been wounded across the country since clashes erupted on Sunday.
The three-day violence came as anti-government protesters stepped up their campaign to topple Saleh and a key military unit supporting them was drawn deeper into the fighting.
The confrontations between former soldiers who are supporting the protesters and government troops portends a new and even more violent phase in Yemen's eight-month standoff.
Saleh's forces have hit back by using rooftop snipers and shelling protest encampments.
The latest violence is the worst incident of bloodshed since a similar massacre killed 52 people in mid-March.
The renewed crackdown came amid reports that Hadi, the Yemeni vice-president, would sign a Gulf Arab initiative to arrange for a transfer of power in Yemen "within a week".
"Within a week, the vice-president will sign the Gulf Initiative in the name of the president," a high-ranking Saudi official, who requested anonymity, told reporters.
Last week, Saleh authorised Hadi to negotiate a power transfer with the opposition.
The initiative was proposed by the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council and sets the path for a peaceful transition of power from Saleh, who has ruled Yemen since 1978.
According to the Saudi official, "among the guarantees demanded by Saleh are that his son be kept in the next government".
Saleh left the country three months ago for Saudi Arabia where he has been recovering from a June 3 attack on his presidential compound.
The president has since January faced protests over nepotism and corruption from reform activists inspired by the Arab Spring.