(Reuters) - Security forces fired on protesters in Yemen on Sunday, killing at least five people, hospital officials said, as Yemenis waited for international action to force President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.
Witnesses said security forces attacked the protesters as they tried to enter Zubayri Street, which lies between two areas controlled by government forces and the powerful tribal leader Sadeq al-Ahmar.
Security forces fear that protesters could block off the street, a major throughway for traffic, according to residents.
"Until now, we have four martyrs and 13 injured by bullets," said Dr. Muhammad al-Qubati, head of a field hospital set up by protesters on Sixty Street in the capital Sanaa, where thousands have camped out for months demanding Saleh end his 33 years in office. He said more casualties were arriving by ambulance.
Security forces killed a 52-year-old woman during protests in the southern city of Taiz, medical officials said.
Violence in Yemen, strategically located at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, has surged over the last two days, with security forces killing at least 12 on Saturday while al Qaeda insurgents blew up a gas pipeline, halting the impoverished nation's gas exports.
Yemenis have been waiting for U.N. Security Council members to agree to a resolution expected to urge Saleh to hand over power under a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) peace plan.
Saleh says he is ready to step down but wants to ensure that control of the country is transferred to safe hands.
Britain has been drafting a resolution on Yemen in consultation with France and the United States and intends to circulate it to the full 15-nation Security Council shortly after a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
Russia and China, which joined forces to veto a European-sponsored resolution against Syria earlier this month, are not expected to block the resolution on Saleh, diplomats in New York have said.
Yemeni officials have said the attack on the pipeline on Saturday was in retaliation for the killing of the head of the media department of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in an air raid on militant outposts in Yemen last week.
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia, which shares a border with Yemen, fear al Qaeda is trying to take advantage of the country's political vacuum to expand its territory in the south of the Arabian Peninsula, near a strategic shipping strait used by tankers carrying some 3 million barrels of oil a day.
(Reporting By Mohammed Sudam, Writing by Nour Merza, Editing by Sami Aboudi)