Saudi-led coalition promises to ease blockade on Yemen


Saudi-led coalition promises to ease blockade on Yemen

The Saudi-led military coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen has announced it will reopen the war-torn country's main worldwide airport in the capital of Sanaa and a vital Red Sea port to give access to humanitarian aid.

The airport in the capital of Sanaa will reopen to United Nations aircraft and the sea port of Hodeida will be able to receive urgent humanitarian aid, the coalition said in a statement.

"Before this blockade even started our team estimated that 130 children a day were dying of preventable disease and hunger in Yemen."

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 blockade was imposed after a missile was sacked by Yemen's Houthi rebels at Riyadh airport 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 UN on Wednesday said it had been notified by the Saudi authorities of the reopening of the Yemeni ports of Hodeida and Saleef, as well as Sana'a airport. "Of course, if that were to happen that would be a very welcome and critically important development".

"If its just a small, short-term announcement of humanitarian aid being allowed in, that certainly will not be enough to avert starvation", she said.

"It is good news, but we are still waiting to see the specific details", Jamie McGoldrick, the UN's humanitarian chief for Yemen, said.

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

United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters at United Nations headquarters in NY that senior United Nations humanitarian and political officials received information from their Saudi counterparts on Wednesday, indicating a willingness to open the airport and ports "over the next day".

In response, ships were ordered to leave the Red Sea ports of Hodeida and Salef, the only lifeline to northern Yemen where most of the population lives - the two ports are under the control of the Houthis.

The Saudi-led coalition has laid siege to Yemen since Houthi rebels seized parts of the country in 2015.

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