At least 75 people have died in fierce fighting in northern Yemen in recent days, the country’s military said Saturday, reported VOA.

The clashes in Hajjah Province near the Saudi border between rebel-allied units and pro-government Yemeni forces have killed more than 75 over the past three days, Yemeni security officials and witnesses said. The dead included more than 40 rebels and 35 government troops, with 50 wounded on the rebel side and dozens wounded on the government side.

Most were killed by airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition that dominates the skies in Yemen, said the witnesses and security officials, who remain neutral in the conflict that has splintered Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country. Dozens of tanks and armored vehicles were destroyed.

The government troops advanced across the border from Saudi territory, where they had trained for months, and engaged units allied with the Shi’ite Houthi rebels, military sources said.

The combat came as U.N.-sponsored peace talks aimed at finding a settlement to the conflict in Yemen were underway in Geneva. Negotiations began Tuesday when it was unclear whether the Iranian-backed Houthis would abide by the halt in fighting.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the negotiations, saying they were the only way to end the civil war.

Yemen’s fighting pits the internationally recognized government backed by a Saudi-led, U.S.-supported coalition against the rebels, known as Houthis, who are allied with a former president and backed by Iran.

 AP noted, according to U.N. figures, at least, 5,884 people have died in the Yemen war since March, when fighting escalated after the Saudi-led coalition began launching airstrikes targeting the rebels.

Fighting in Yemen has continued despite a week-long cease-fire agreement that went into effect Tuesday. On Friday, the Yemeni rebel delegation suspended meetings with the internationally recognized government in protest over its cease-fire violations.

Last month, top regional U.N. official Johannes van der Klaauw said more than 21 million of the country’s 27 million residents lacked basic necessities and urgently needed humanitarian assistance. He said aid workers were trying to stave off malnutrition among 3 million children and pregnant women in Yemen.