Last updated: 5 May, 2015

Saudi coalition urged to spare Yemen airports

Saudi-led bombing of Yemen’s airports is obstructing aid deliveries aimed at easing a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in the impoverished country, international relief agencies have warned.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said they were “extremely concerned about the severe damage caused by recent coalition attacks on airports in Sanaa” and the western region of Hodeida.

The strikes targeting the rebel-controlled airports are “obstructing delivery of much needed humanitarian assistance and movement of humanitarian personnel,” they said in a joint statement late Monday.

UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen Johannes van der Klaauw also urged the Saudi-led coalition that has been pounding Iran-backed rebels in Yemen since March 26 to spare vital aid entry points.

“I strongly urge the coalition to stop targeting Sanaa international airport and to preserve this important lifeline — and all other airports and seaports — so that humanitarians can reach all those affected by the armed conflict in Yemen,” he said.

The appeals came as a Yemenia passenger plane was damaged by overnight coalition air strikes on Sanaa airport, officials at the rebel-controlled facility said.

An AFP photographer said missiles left at least four craters in the runway, while another unexploded rocket protruded from the surface.

On April 28, the coalition said its warplanes had destroyed the Sanaa runway after an Iranian plane “defied” a blockade on Yemeni airspace.

“The disruption of the key logistic infrastructure, including airports, sea ports, bridges and roads are having alarming consequences on the civilian population, and the humanitarian situation has now become catastrophic,” MSF and ICRC warned.

Cedric Schweizer, who heads a 250-strong ICRC team in Yemen, said the coalition blockade has “made the daily lives of Yemenis unbearable”.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Monday that his country was considering temporary halts in air strikes to allow aid deliveries.

Early on Tuesday, coalition warplanes struck several rebels positions in the main southern city of Aden, including targets around the international airport, residents said.

Clashes between rebels and supporters of Saudi-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who has taken refuge in Riyadh, raged overnight in adjacent Lahj province, residents said.

In Loder, another southern city, residents accused rebels of firing mortar rounds on residential areas.