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Saudi coalition says it will reopen Yemen ports to aid

The coalition said it would reopen Hodeidah port to receive humanitarian aid [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 November, 2017

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The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said it would reopen key ports to aid, as humanitarian agencies warn the country faced the largest famine in decades if the blockade continued.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Wednesday it would reopen a key Red Sea port and Sanaa airport to aid.

The coalition imposed the blockade more than two weeks ago following a missile attack on Riyadh.

It said it would reopen Hodeidah port to receive "urgent humanitarian and relief materials" and Sanaa airport to UN aircraft from midday on Thursday (9am GMT), but did not specify if it would ease a blockade on commercial traffic.

Hodeidah, which is controlled by Houthi rebels backed by Saudi Arabia's arch-rival Iran, is a key conduit for much-needed food and medicine imports to Yemen.

The coalition imposed a total blockade of Yemen's ports and airports two days after the Houthis fired a missile at Saudi Arabia on November 4.

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.

The United Nations Security Council on November 9 called for the blockade to be lifted, warning that otherwise Yemen would face "the largest famine the world has seen for decades".

The Houthi government on Tuesday announced the country's main international airport was fully functional again a week after a Saudi-led airstrike destroyed the facility's navigation system.

The airport had been open to only select humanitarian flights.

Allied with Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels control the capital Sanaa along with much of northern Yemen.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the Yemeni government's fight against the rebels.

More than 10,000 people have since been killed.

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

Save the Children last week estimated at least 130 children die every day from extreme hunger and disease.

"Essential medicines, fuel and food stocks could start running out in a matter of weeks," it said of the blockade. "It's utterly unacceptable to let children die of neglect and a lack of political will."

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says Yemen is highly dependent on imported wheat for its basic needs.

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