UN calls for talks on Yemen's Hodeidah port as front lines shift

Houthi fighters clashed with Yemeni coalition forces in Hays district, south of Houthi-held Hodeidah city

A UN 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 Iran-backed Houthi fighters advanced after withdrawing coalition forces.

The air strikes, which began on Sunday, were the first since late 2018 when the Saudi-backed government and the Houthi militants agreed a UN-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 UN 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 front lines that warranted discussions between parties to the agreement.

The United Nations said the shifting front lines 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 whether 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.

UN and US 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.

Also on Monday, the Saudi-led coalition announced that a redeployment of its forces from the western coast was meant to back Yemeni government forces on other fronts, Saudi state news agency (SPA) reported, citing coalition spokesman Gen Turki Al Malki.

Yemeni forces under a Saudi-led coalition said on Friday they had withdrawn from around the main Red Sea port of Hodeidah held by their foes the Houthis to help deter the Iran-aligned group's advances in other parts of Yemen.

Updated: November 15th 2021, 8:33 PM
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