New 'mercy flight' leaves rebel-held Yemen capital: WHO

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Dubai (AFP)

A second medical evacuation flight carrying 24 critically ill Yemenis left the rebel-held capital Sanaa on Saturday, the World Health Organization said.

"The flight just took off from Sanaa headed to Amman," a WHO spokesperson told AFP.

The plane was carrying men, women and children in need of medical treatment, along with their companions, the spokesperson added.

The flight had been due to leave Sanaa on Friday but was rescheduled for "technical reasons," according to the WHO.

A first "mercy flight" evacuated seven children from Sanaa on Monday for medical treatment in Jordan.

The United Nations is eager to build the necessary confidence between the warring parties in Yemen to enable more such evacuations.

The WHO said Friday it was " committed and working very hard to ensure these Yemeni patients receive the treatment they need."

A Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting in support of the beleaguered Yemeni government has kept Sanaa airport closed to commercial flights since 2016.

But in November, the coalition announced that it was prepared to allow medical evacuations from the airport as a confidence-building measure to support UN peace efforts.

"This is the first of what we hope will be a number of flights in the medical air bridge," the UN resident coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, told AFP after Monday's flight.

The reopening of Sanaa airport is a key demand of the Huthi rebels fighting the government and one of the issues being pursued by UN mediators as they seek to relaunch peace talks.