More than 20 people have been killed in fighting between rebels and government-allied tribesmen in northern Yemen in two days.

The fighting in al-Jawf province, in the northeast of the capital Sanaa, is further destabilising a country struggling to overcome a range of threats, including a secessionist movement in its south and the spread of al-Qaeda-linked attacks.

The Reuters news agency reported 22 deaths in Monday and Tuesday’s clashes while the Associated Press said at least 25 people have been killed in the last 24 hours, both reports based on tribal and local sources.

An upsurge in the fighting between the Houthi Shia rebels and pro-government Sunni tribesmen this month followed weeks of anti-government demonstrations by Houthi activists in Sanaa.

The Houthis, who follow the small Zaidi branch of Shia Islam, have been embroiled in a decade-old conflict with the central government in Sunni-dominated Sanaa, fighting for more territory and control in the north.

The sources told Reuters that dead included 15 Houthi fighters, while the Houthis killed two sons of a tribal leader in addition to five other people.

Residents in the northeastern suburb of Sanaa said the Houthi fighters clashed with government security forces who were sent to restore order, which forced many living in the area to flee.

The residents added that the Houthis fighters took control of a village in al-Jawf following clashes with tribesmen which killed a total of seven people from both sides.

On Monday, the Houthis said that they had suspended their participation in negotiations with the Yemeni government about a solution to their grievances because of what they termed "foreign interventions" in the course of the discussions.

The talks aim to end a crisis that has seen weeks of sometimes bloody protests in Sanaa, where Houthi protesters have been blocking the main road to Sanaa's airport and holding sit-ins at ministries to try to oust the government and restore fuel subsidies cut by the state in July as part of economic reforms.

The stability of Yemen is a priority for the US and its Gulf Arab allies because of its strategic position next to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and shipping lanes which run through the Gulf of Aden.