UN calls for new talks on Yemen's Hodeidah port as frontlines shift

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ADEN (Reuters) - A U.N. monitoring mission on Monday called on Yemen's warring parties to hold new talks over Hodeidah as the Saudi-led coalition strafed areas south of the port city, where Houthi fighters advanced in the wake of withdrawing coalition forces.

The air strikes, which began on Sunday, were the first since late 2018 when the Saudi-backed government and the Iran-aligned Houthis agreed a U.N.-sponsored pact for a truce in Hodeidah and a troop redeployment by both sides that never materialised.

The coalition said on Monday it carried out 11 operations "outside the areas covered under the Stockholm pact" to support west coast forces, Saudi state media reported.

Houthi fighters clashed with Yemeni coalition forces in Hays district, south of Houthi-held Hodeidah city, two military sources said, following fighting in Al Faza on Sunday.

The U.N. mission overseeing the pact, UNMHA, said the withdrawal of joint Yemeni forces from Hodeidah city, al-Durayhimi, Bayt al Faqih and parts of al-Tahita and subsequent Houthi takeover was "a major shift" in frontlines that warranted discussions between parties to the agreement.

The United Nations said the shifting frontlines led some 700 families to leave for Al-Khokhah and some 180 families further south to Al-Mokha, both under coalition control.

In a sign of differences among coalition forces, the Red Sea coast Tihama fighters condemned the withdrawal as "unjustified".

It was not clear if the pullback was linked to what the Saudi-led alliance had described as a redeployment in south Yemen, where sources said the Saudi military had left a main base in Aden, the interim seat of government.

Yemen has been mired in violence since the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene in a conflict seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

U.N. and U.S. efforts to engineer a nationwide ceasefire have stalled as the Houthis insist the coalition first lift a blockade on their areas, while Riyadh wants a simultaneous deal.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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