SANAA: Yemen’s Huthi rebels said Tuesday they have allowed the temporary resumption of UN aid flights into the capital Sanaa, a week after a halt due to Saudi-led coalition air strikes.
“The civil aviation authority announces the resumption of UN and other organisation flights into Sanaa airport on a temporary basis,” the rebel-run Al-Masirah television reported.
“The (rebel administration’s) foreign ministry was contacted to notify the UN and all international organisations that Sanaa airport was ready to receive flights.”
Yemen has been wracked by civil war since 2014 pitting the government — supported by the Saudi-led coalition — against the Iran-backed Huthis who control much of the north.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed, in what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Flights into the rebel-held capital have been largely halted by a Saudi-led blockade since August 2016, but there have been exemptions for aid flights that are a key lifeline for the population.
The Huthi rebels had said UN aid flights into Sanaa had been halted by Saudi-led air strikes last week but the coalition said the airport had already been closed two days earlier and blamed the insurgents.
Coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said Sunday the Huthis were “militarising” Sanaa airport and using it as a “main centre for launching ballistic missiles and drones” towards the kingdom.
He also accused Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group of helping the Huthis launch missiles and drones at Saudi Arabia, where two people were killed last week.
On Saturday, the coalition launched what it called a “large-scale” military operation against the Huthis after the fatal rebel attack.
The coalition raids killed three civilians, including a child and a woman, Yemeni medics told AFP.
The coalition maintains its operations are carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law and has repeatedly accused the Huthis of using civilians as human shields.
UN special envoy Hans Grundberg said the uptick in fighting “undermines the prospects of reaching a sustainable political settlement to end the conflict in Yemen.”
“The escalation in recent weeks is among the worst we have seen in Yemen for years and the threat to civilian lives is increasing,” Grundberg said.
He renewed a longstanding UN call for Sanaa airport to reopen permanently for commercial as well as humanitarian flights.
“Any targeting of civilians and civilian objects as well as indiscriminate attacks by any actor is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and must stop immediately,” the UN envoy said.