US Asked for Saudis to Ease Yemen Blockade


Yemen's civil war has been raging since 2015, with the Houthis, a group largely composed of the Zaidi Shia minority, stormed Sanaa and deposed the internationally recognised president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Children protest against the Saudi-led coalition outside the United Nations offices in Sanaa, Yemen November 20, 2017. Some 7 million people are estimated to rely on food aid and 4 million on fuel needed for pumping 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.

His comments came shortly before the Saudi-led military coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen announced it would reopen Sanaa airport and the port of Hodeida on Thursday for urgent humanitarian aid and United Nations aircraft.

"We're of course encouraged by the clearance of this flight which may be followed soon by clearances of flights from Djibouti to Sanaa", Laerke told a news briefing on Friday.

"We are particularly talking about one ship which is offshore Hodeidah with wheat from WFP (the U.N. World Food Programme) and another boat which is waiting in Djibouti with cholera supplies and that is also destined for Hodeidah", he said. "If that were to happen that would be a very welcome and critically important development".

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The statement described the decision to open the port of Hodeidah and Sanaa airport as a first step in addressing the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, expressing Washington's aspiration to take additional steps.

UNICEF is also waiting to send vaccines, aid sources said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was vital to get commercial traffic resumed.

The coalition closed air, land and sea access on November 6 to stop the flow of arms to the Houthis from Iran.

The United Nations Security Council on November 9 called for the blockade to be lifted, warning that otherwise Yemen would face "the largest starvation the world has seen for decades". The blockade was imposed earlier this month in response to a missile fired at Riyadh. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with weapons.