Saudi Alliance Bombs Yemen Airport Stoking Mass Starvation Fears
November 15, 2017 Agence France-Presse & AntiWar.com & Al Jazeera
Yemenis from all walks of life took to the streets Monday to protest a Saudi-led blockade that has left thousands struggling to survive. The United Nations last month blacklisted the Saudi-led coalition for the killing and maiming of children in Yemen. The rebel-held port of Hodeida -- crucial to UN aid efforts -- remains closed. Hopes that Sanaa International Airport would be opened to aid flights were dashed when Saudi warplanes attacked the airport. Over seven million of whom are facing famine-like conditions.
Thousands Protest in Yemen against Saudi-led Blockade Agence France-Presse
SANAA (November 13, 2017) -- Young and old, desk clerks and activists, Yemenis from all walks of life took to the streets Monday to protest a Saudi-led blockade that has left thousands struggling to survive.
"This siege is oppressive, and the whole world is sleeping!" people chanted as thousands gathered outside the UN offices in the rebel-held capital Sanaa.
Their faces painted the colours of the Yemeni flag or in traditional dress, protesters marched to demand the end of a blockade on the country's ports, airports and border crossings, imposed last week by a Saudi-led military coalition battling the country's Huthi rebels.
A young girl had her face painted half black, half white -- her red flowered veil completing the colours of Yemen's national flag.
An elderly man had tucked a portrait of Shiite rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi into his head wrap.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have said the tightening of restrictions on Yemen is a direct response to a missile attack against Riyadh earlier this month, claimed by the Iran-backed Huthis.
The United Nations last month blacklisted the Saudi-led coalition for the killing and maiming of children in Yemen.
The Yemen war has killed thousands and brought the impoverished country to the brink of famine, as the coalition continues to fight alongside the government against the Huthis and their ally, strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Saleh al-Samad, the head of the Huthi political council, demanded that the coalition end its blockade on Yemen -- where both parties in the conflict stand accused of neglecting civilian safety.
"The right choice for the Saudi regime and its allies is to stop the war, end the blockade and engage in direct dialogue," Samad said at the rally.
"Continuing the aggression and the blockade will force us to... harm those nations in defence of our people".
The coalition has said it has reopened the port of Aden and a land border, both controlled by its allies in the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
But the rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida remains closed. The port is crucial to UN aid efforts, as it is a central valve for a significant portion of Yemenis in need.
Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the Yemen war in March 2015 with the stated aim of rolling back the rebels' territorial gains and restoring the government to power.
The United Nations now lists Yemen as the world's number one humanitarian crisis, with 17 million people in need of food, seven million of whom are at risk of famine.
UN aid chief Mark Lowcock last week warned that unless the blockade is lifted, Yemen will face "the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims".
Saudi Planes Bomb Yemen Airport, Blocking Aid Deliveries Attack Destroyed Navigation Station at Sanaa Airport Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(November 14, 2017) – The humanitarian calamity in Northern Yemen, fueled by Saudi Arabia's blockade, has been killing large numbers of people, a result of lack of medicine and increasingly scarce food. The situation just got much worse.
Hopes that Sanaa International Airport would be opened to aid flights to at least slightly ease the crisis were dashed Tuesday morning when Saudi warplanes attacked the airport, destroying its navigation station and effectively shutting it down.
This isn't the first time Saudi planes have attacked the airport, and indeed strikes against aid delivery sites, the airport and Hodeidah Port, have been recurring throughout the war, making aid shipments all the more complicated even on those rare occasions when the Saudis will let such aid in at all.
Saudi officials offered no justification for the attack, which added even further to UN concerns about the shortages across Yemen. The Saudi strikes underscore their increased willingness to use aid restriction as a weapon of war, just the latest in a litany of war crimes they've committed since the 2015 invasion. Saudi Alliance Bombs Sanaa Airport, Blocking Aid Access Al Jazeera
(November 14, 2017) -- Yemen's Houthi rebels have accused the Saudi-led coalition of bombing the country's main international airport, destroying a navigation station that is critical to receiving already limited aid shipments.
Houthi officials told Al Jazeera two air strikes targeted Sanaa's international airport in the rebel-held capital early on Tuesday, making it unusable for aid flights and further complicating humanitarian efforts into the country.
"This attack is intended to cause maximum damage and deprive millions of Yemenis from receiving life-saving food and medicines," Mohammed, a Houthi official who declined to give his surname, said.
The Saudi-led coalition forced the closure of Sanaa airport in August 2016 to all but a few UN aid flights.
The Houthi-run General Authority for Civil Aviation said in a statement the air strike "led to the total destruction of the VOR/DME radio navigation system, taking it offline and thus halting the only flights at Sanaa airport -- those of the UN and other international organisations delivering humanitarian assistance".
"The authority emphasises that attack is an explicit violation of international covenants and treaties, which stipulate that civilian airports are not targeted," it added.
Last week, the Saudi-led coalition intensified its embargo on Yemen, closing all of the country's land, sea and air ports after Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile towards the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
The kingdom intercepted the missile and no one was injured, but within hours it imposed a fresh blockade, claiming it aimed at preventing weapons being smuggled into Yemen by its regional rival, Iran.
On Monday, the coalition said it would ease the blockade and allow flights to Aden and open the southern city's port, but it refused to reopen Hodeidah port.
The UN says the closure of Hodeida port puts millions of civilians in the north at risk. Aden port, which is controlled by the coalition, does not have the capacity to handle the volume of humanitarian cargo and would mean hazardous cross-line deliveries.
George Khoury, the UN country director for Yemen, told Al Jazeera he was "concerned" Tuesday's air strikes could affect operations in the country.
"Millions of Yemenis depend on this airport for aid and we have hundreds of staff use it to move in and out of the country," he said.
"We are still assessing the situation . . . but are extremely concerned at the risk posed to our supply pipelines."
Yemen used to import about 70 percent of its daily needs before the blockade, but since the start of the siege, food and medicine are in short supply, with cooking gas prices having surged by around 100 percent and fuel unavailable at most gas stations.
"Seventy percent of families in Yemen live from hand to mouth, they buy from the shops and eat that very night at the table. If there is any breach in our supply pipeline, it will greatly impact millions," Khoury added.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Sanaa, Rasha Muhrez, director of operations at the charity Save the Children, said aid agencies were struggling to contain the crisis.
"If we don't have the fuel to deliver our supplies to millions of starving Yemeni families, we will continue to witness more children dying of hunger," Muhrez said.
"We heard [from the Saudis] that Aden and Mukalla ports are now open -- but this is not enough. This does not replace Hodeidah port and Sanaa airport -- we need to allow these ports to operate as normal."
Muhrez said, more importantly, humanitarian aid cannot replace commercial shipments. "There are about 27 million people in need, over seven million of whom are facing famine-like conditions. They need immediate assistance."
Yemen has been devastated by war since 2015 when Houthi rebels captured Sanaa and overthrew President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government.
Together with a coalition of other Arab states, and with logistical support from the United States and other western powers, Saudi Arabia intervened -- but has so far failed to dislodge the rebels from Sanaa and their northern strongholds.
The civilian death toll has surpassed 10,000 and millions have been brought to the brink of starvation.
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