Saudi Coalition Agrees To Reopen Yemeni Ports To Humanitarian Aid

Saudi Arabia eases blockade, reopens Yemen's Hudaydah port

Saudi Arabia levied an air, land and sea blockade on the country in early November after the Iranian-backed Houthi group fired a ballistic missile into the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh.

The missile was intercepted near Riyadh's King Khalid International Airport, sparking a war of words between Tehran and Riyadh, which accused Iran of "direct aggression" and supplying arms to the Houthis.

United Nations officials have submitted requests to the coalition for deliveries via Hodeidah and Sanaa, and the "hope and expectation" was that the vital aid pipelines would re-open on Friday, the U.N.'s Laerke said.

The reintroduction of commercial traffic to Yemen's ports was also uncertain.

The Saudi-led coalition's blockade of Yemen, which has cut off food imports to a population where 7 million people are on the brink of starvation, is "illegal collective punishment" of civilians, a prominent aid official said on Thursday.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen has pledged to reopen the country's main airport, as well as two main ports.

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He says that "at a time of starvation and a time of cholera, it's very important" to keep all aid channels open.

Aid group Save the Children welcomed the coalition's announcement but said opening the port and airport would be "nowhere near enough to avert a potential starvation in Yemen". The two ports have served as the only lifeline for northern Yemen, where most of the country's 27 million people live.

The U.N. humanitarian chief in Yemen says the closure of the country's main airport and two seaports by a Saudi-led coalition has threatened gains made in containing cholera and the risk of starvation in the war-torn country.

United Nations officials say Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, is facing the world's worst cholera outbreak, near starvation conditions in some parts and a severe breakdown of the healthcare system.

Saudi Arabia said the move was meant to stop the flow of arms to the Houthis from Iran, although Iran has denied supplying weapons to the rebel forces. More than 2,200 people have died.

The country also faces a deadly cholera epidemic and millions stand at the brink of official starvation.

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