Renewed fighting erupted in central Yemen, killing at least 16 forces, security and health officials said Wednesday. The flare-up of violence comes after new hope for peace efforts in the war-torn country in the days leading up to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The fighting flared up Tuesday evening (Mar. 21) after the Houthi rebels moved on the city of Harib, in the south of the central province of Marib. The fighting continued through Wednesday and led to communications being cut in the city and its surroundings.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis attempted to take control of the oil-rich province for much of 2021. For part of that year, the Houthis held the town of Harib. But their offensive crumbled late last year when the UAE-backed forces helped reclaim the nearby Shabwa province before re-taking Harib and its surroundings. An agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to restore diplomatic ties has buoyed hopes that the countries could pressure their Yemeni allies to embark on political talks to end the conflict.

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has been sentenced to two years in prison by a court in Gujarat state in a criminal defamation case. Gandhi was convicted for his 2019 comments about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surname during an election rally. "Why all the thieves, be it Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi or Narendra Modi, have Modi in their names," the Congress leader had allegedly said during the rally. He has been given bail for 30 days and can file an appeal against the order.

Gandhi, who is a Congress party MP, was present in court when the judge delivered the order. The case was filed on the basis of a complaint by Purnesh Modi, a lawmaker from India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party. Soon after the verdict, Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter, where he quoted Mahatma Gandhi. "My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it," he wrote.

The US Federal Reserve extended its year-long fight against high inflation by raising its key interest rate by a quarter-point despite concerns that higher borrowing rates could worsen the turmoil that has gripped the banking system. At a news conference, Fed Chair Jerome Powell sought to reassure Americans that it is safe to leave money in their banks, two weeks after a rush of depositors pulled funds from Silicon Valley Bank, which collapsed in the second-biggest bank failure in U.S. history. Signature Bank fell soon afterward.

"We have the tools to protect depositors when there's a threat of serious harm to the economy or to the financial system," Powell said. The Fed chair also underscored that the central bank remains focused on fighting high inflation, which could require additional rate hikes. Yet he also signalled that the Fed might not need to impose many more increases if more banks were to reduce their lending to conserve cash. This could lead to slower growth, hiring and inflation, Powell said.

French President Emmanuel Macron is stubbornly resisting growing discontent on the streets, saying that the controversial pension bill he pushed through without a vote in parliament to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 must be implemented by the end of the year. Some suggested that the president is playing with fire amid strikes and daily demonstrations, often leading to clashes with police. More nationwide protests were expected on Thursday (Mar. 23).

The president's remarks Wednesday were his first since the government finally forced the pension bill through parliament last week, then survived two no-confidence votes in the lower chamber of parliament. France's Constitutional Council will review the bill in the coming weeks, and it can only be turned into law after the body gives its approval. The 45-year-old centrist president, in his second and final term, repeatedly said he was convinced that France's retirement system needed to be modified to keep it financed.

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