By Mohammed Ghobari
SANAA (Reuters) - Scattered clashes broke out across Yemen Monday, killing three soldiers in the north, as military forces were deployed to check nationwide protests demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The impoverished Arabian Peninsula state has been rocked by weeks of demonstrations that have undermined Saleh's 32-year grip on power, with both pro- and anti-government supporters appearing to resort increasingly to violence in the struggle.
Seven demonstrators and three soldiers have died in clashes since Saturday, raising the death toll from unrest above 30.
The United States, which has long seen Saleh as a bulwark against a dynamic al Qaeda wing based in Yemen, has condemned the bloodshed and backed the right for peaceful protest, but has insisted only dialogue can end the political crisis.
Two soldiers and an officer were killed as clashes broke out in the northern al-Jawf province, which borders oil giant Saudi Arabia, Yemen's state news agency Saba said.
Fighting intensified after protesters stormed a municipal building. Security forces fired on them, wounding 10, but could not stop them seizing the building, a local official said.
In the central Maarib province, where several oil and gas fields of international companies are located, a man stabbed governor Naji Zayedi, critically wounding him as he and police tried to break up a crowd of thousands at a sit-in.
"Members of the opposition stabbed the governor and wounded three others as security tried to stop protesters from inciting chaos," a local official said.
As tensions in Yemen rose, three journalists and a researcher from Britain and the United States were abruptly deported Monday. An airport official said they had all entered on tourist visas and were not entitled to work there.
Saleh has made many verbal concessions to the protesters, promising to step down in 2013 and offering a new constitution giving more powers to parliament, but he has steadfastly refused his critics' main demand that he leave office immediately.
Soldiers and armored vehicles tried to cut off an area in the capital Sanaa, where around 20,000 anti-government supporters have been camped out for weeks.
"We're expecting an attack at any minute, but we're not leaving until the regime falls, " said protester Taha Qayed.
Crowds chanted: "Leave, leave you murderer."
Police fired in the air to try to break up tens of thousands of protesters in Taiz, 200 km (125 miles) south of capital Sanaa. Three were hurt, but protesters continued demonstrating.
Thousands were also protesting in al-Hawta, the regional capital of southern Lahej province, residents said.
"Al-Hawta is in a state of paralysis. The opposition has called for a general strike to protest at the repression of demonstrators," a resident told Reuters by phone.
He said all the markets were shuttered and that security forces were spread out around the city.
Elsewhere in the south, more than 10,000 people were also protesting in the flashpoint province of Dalea, where police have often clashed with armed secessionist groups, locals said.
Popular revolts in Egypt and Tunisia have inspired this latest wave of unrest in Yemen, but the country was already seething with intermittent rebellions in the north and south.
As demonstrations gather steam across the country, a string of Saleh's allies have recently defected to the protesters, who are frustrated by rampant corruption and soaring unemployment. Some 40 percent of the population live on $2 a day or less in Yemen, and a third face chronic hunger.
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden; Writing by Erika Solomon; Editing by Crispian Balmer)