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Saudi Arabia authorizes flights into Yemen

November 24, 2017

Saudi Arabia has given the United Nations permission to resume flights into Yemen. The Middle Eastern country had tightened their blockade after a long-range missile was intercepted near the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

Ärzte ohne Grenzen verlassen den Jemen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Y. Arhab

The United Nations said on Friday that Saudi Arabia has permitted passenger flights to fly from Amman, the Jordanian capital, to the Yemeni capital of Sanaa — which is controlled by Houthi rebels — but has not authorized humanitarian supplies to enter the crucial Red Sea ports of Hodeida and Saleef.

It is unclear what supplies will be able to be transported by plane.

"The UN has been notified through our usual contacts in Riyadh that the regular passenger flight operated by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service can fly to Sana'a from Amman starting tomorrow," Jens Laerke, the spokesman for the UN humanitarian office, told reporters in Geneva.

Saudi Arabia tightened its blockade on Yemen after a missile, shown by pro-Houthi television, was intercepted
Saudi Arabia tightened its blockade on Yemen after a missile, shown by pro-Houthi television, was interceptedImage: Reuters

"However, there has been no substantial change since yesterday regarding the requests for clearance to go by boat to Hodeida and Saleef seaports with humanitarian supplies."

Saudi Arabia has maintained an air, sea and land blockade on Yemen since 2015, trying to prevent arms from reaching the country's Shiite rebel group, known as the Houthis, from Iran. The blockade intensified after Saudi authorities intercepted a long-range missile, which they said had Iranian markings, near Riyadh airport. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with weapons.

Read more:

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Seaports still closed

The UN and other advocacy groups have pressured the Saudi-led coalition to allow aid into Yemen through the Hodeida and Saleef seaports, which the coalition had said they would reopen.

Yemen humanitarian site
A lack of fresh water has exacerbated a cholera outbreak in YemenImage: picture alliance/AP Photo

"One flight from Amman to Sanaa is not going to change the overall picture all that much," Laerke said. "What really matters is that the resumption of these flights becomes sustainable."

Laerke further called for the reopening of the ports to allow humanitarian aid through.

Fuel shortage expected within a week

UN officials say Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, is facing the world's worst cholera outbreak, near famine conditions in some parts and a severe breakdown of the healthcare system.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA also said on Friday saying that supplies of petrol and diesel are expected to run out in the coming week and the largest fuel importing companies will no longer be able to supply the consumer market.

"We stress the critical importance of resuming also commercial imports, in particular fuel supplies for our humanitarian response — transportation and so on — and for water pumping, Laerke said.

dv/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters)