Saudi-led coalition promises to ease blockade on Yemen

Saudi-led coalition promises to ease blockade on Yemen

Saudi-led coalition promises to ease blockade on Yemen

Airstrikes and ground fighting have left more than 10,000 people dead and driven 3 million from their homes since the coalition intervened in the war between forces loyal to President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthi rebels.

About 7 million people in Yemen, out of a population of 27 million, depend entirely on food aid, and 4 million rely on aid groups for clean water. They also suggested Sanaa Airport would be allowed to reopen, though since they bombed the airport recently, it's not clear it's capable of reopening.

"We have not yet had any movement as of now", said Jens Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance.

In a statement, coalition officials said that it would reopen the ports and airport to receive "urgent humanitarian and relief materials" starting midday on Thursday (0900 UTC).

The spokesperson said that aid workers are still not allowed to dock ships with much-needed wheat or medical supplies.

FILE PHOTO: A malnourished boy lies on a bed at a malnutrition treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen November 21, 2017.

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The United Nations says that if Saudi Arabia reopens the airport in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and its Red Sea ports of Hodeida and Salef as the kingdom has indicated it would do, it will be "a very welcome and critically important development".

Jan Egeland, a former United Nations aid chief who now heads the Norwegian Refugee Council, said of the blockade: "In my view this is illegal collective punishment".

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

The coalition closed air, land and sea access on November 6 to stop the flow of arms to the Houthis from Iran. The action came after Saudi Arabia intercepted a missile fired towards Riyadh.

The Saudi-led coalition's blockade of Yemen, which has cut off food imports to a population where 7 million people are on the brink of starvation, is "illegal collective punishment" of civilians, a prominent aid official said on Thursday. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with weapons.

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