Key ports for humanitarian shipments to Yemen remain closed

Saudi Arabia to reopen Yemen's air and seaports within next 24 hours

The Saudi-led military coalition fighting Yemen's Houthi rebels last week announced it had closed all air, land and seaports in Yemen to stem what it said was the flow of arms to the Houthis from Iran.

Seven million people are at risk of starvation in Yemen, according to the United Nations, and are relying nearly exclusively on aid to feed themselves.

Transport minister Mourad al-Halimi had said Yemenia flights to the pro-government-held cities of Aden and Seiyun would resume on Sunday, but the national carrier said it did not have the necessary permits to fly.

An air raid by the Saudi-led military coalition put Yemeni airport in the Houthi-controlled capital Sana'a out of service today, jeopardising relief shipments to a country on the brink of starvation, the state news agency SABA reported.

The Saudi-led coalition hopes that will prevent "the smuggling of weapons, ammunitions, missile parts and cash that are regularly being supplied by Iran and Iranian accomplices to the Houthi rebels", the statement said.

He added that Saudi Arabia was looking to work with the United Nations to ensure the ports are safely reopened.

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However, Mr McGoldrick said there was "no indication" yet of the blockade being lifted.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia said it would begin opening airports and seaports, but that has not happened yet.

Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said the reopening of the ports was for the "safe transfer of humanitarian actors and humanitarian and commercial shipments" into Yemen.

He said many weapons have been smuggled to the Houthis through Hodeida and the small ports they control.

The announcement from the Saudi mission at the United Nations came after the coalition fighting Yemen's rebels, known as Houthis, faced widespread worldwide criticism over the closure, with the U.N. and over 20 aid groups saying it could bring millions of already suffering people closer to "starvation and death". The resolution does not address whether US support for the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict triggers the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which lawmakers are split over. However, Saudi Arabia demanded more rigorous checks at the Red Sea port of Hodeida, which is being controlled by the rebels.

While coalition announcements about the availability of two ports in southern Yemen are "helpful", the key need is access to the rebel-held Red Sea ports of Salif and Hodeida, which are now inaccessible to United Nations aid shipments.

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