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Middle East

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen port, airport for humanitarian aid

© Mohammed Huwais, AFP | Yemeni children suffering from diphtheria receive treatment at a hospital in the capital Sanaa on November 22, 2017.


Latest update : 2017-11-23

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said Wednesday it would reopen a key Red Sea port and Sanaa airport to aid, after a more than two-week blockade following a missile attack on Riyadh.

The coalition said it would reopen Hodeida port to receive "urgent humanitarian and relief materials" and Sanaa airport to UN aircraft from midday on Thursday (0900 GMT).

It did not specify when or if it would ease a blockade on commercial traffic.

Hodeida, which is controlled by Huthi rebels backed by Saudi Arabia's arch-rival Iran, is a key conduit for much-needed food and medicine imports to Yemen.

The coalition imposed a total blockade of Yemen's ports and airports two days after the Huthis fired a missile at Saudi Arabia on November 4.

The missile was intercepted near Riyadh's King Khalid International Airport, sparking a war of words between Tehran and Riyadh, which accused Iran of "direct aggression" and supplying arms to the Huthis.

The United Nations said Wednesday it had been notified by the Saudi authorities of the reopening on Thursday of the Yemeni ports of Hodeida and Saleef, as well as Sanaa airport.

"We are monitoring these developments and we are trying to see whether that actually takes place on the ground," UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

"Of course, if that were to happen that would be a very welcome and critically important development."

Aid group Save the Children welcomed the coalition's announcement but said opening the port and airport would be "nowhere near enough to avert a potential famine in Yemen".

"Humanitarian relief only provides a small portion of the essential goods needed in Yemen commercial supplies are critical to feed the population and keep basic services running," it said.

UN aid chief Mark Lowcock called on November 8 for the blockade to be lifted, warning that Yemen would otherwise face "the largest famine the world has seen for decades".

The Huthi government on Tuesday announced the country's main international airport was fully functional again a week after a Saudi-led air strike destroyed the facility's navigation system.

The airport had been open to only select humanitarian flights.

>> Read more: Are Western weapons being used against Yemeni civilians?

Allied with Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Iran-backed Huthi rebels control the capital Sanaa along with much of northern Yemen.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the Yemeni government's fight against the rebels.

More than 8,750 people have since been killed.

The country also faces a deadly cholera epidemic and millions stand at the brink of official famine.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says Yemen is highly dependent on imported  wheat for its basic needs.


Date created : 2017-11-23


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