Arab coalition calls for ceasefire in Aden, Yemen

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Fighting between Yemeni government forces and southern separatists entered the third day Friday, leaving more than 20 killed, including five civilians, officials said.

The fighting has left at least 18 dead and scores wounded, medics and security sources have said. The death toll in four days of fighting climbed to more than 70 people, including civilians, officials said. Together, they have been battling Iran-allied, Shite rebels known as Houthis to restore Yemen's internationally recognized government and prevent Tehran from gaining regional influence.

The violence complicates United Nations' efforts to end the war that has killed tens of thousands and pushed the long-impoverished country to the brink of starvation.

Following the airstrike, the STC forces, which had taken over the government's military bases and the presidential palace, announced its withdrawal on the Saudi-led coaition's request.

The government has said it will not negotiate with the separatists until they hand over all the military positions they seized.

Saturday's clashes centred on the all-but empty presidential palace in the predominantly residential Crater district, near Aden International Airport and in a neighbourhood where the interior minister lives, residents said.

The coalition called for an "immediate ceasefire" and the Saudi foreign ministry has demanded an "urgent meeting" between the warring parties. "We are also very anxious by reports that civilians trapped in their homes are running out of food and water". "In the past, half-measures helped de-escalate simmering tensions in the south; today's circumstances require robust diplomatic intervention from the UN, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to avoid the worst and help forge a durable solution".

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the parties to end hostilities and engage in "inclusive dialogue".

"The Saudi-led airstrike was a warning message to the STC forces that they must stop attacking government institutions in Aden", the official said on condition of anonymity.

The commander was among 36 people killed - many of them newly graduated cadets - in the aerial attack, claimed by the Houthis. Hadi's government sees its formation as a move that "targets the county's interests, its future and social fabric". Griffiths had been trying to salvage a stalled troop withdrawal deal agreed by the Houthis and Hadi's government at December peace talks in Sweden.

The Huthis have also stepped up cross-border missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia.

Earlier on Saturday, the Security Belt overran three military barracks in Aden and seized weaponry.

Al Jazeera's Mohammed al-Attab, reporting from Sanaa, said people in the south were expecting Saudi Arabia to declare another "decisive military campaign against the separatists ... similar to the one launched against the Houthis in the north".

The group controls Sanaa, Hodeidah and other major urban centres while Hadi's government holds Aden and a string of western coastal towns.