Saudis lift Yemen blockade for aid supplies



The Saudi-led coalition tightened a blockade of the Arab world's poorest country earlier this month, after a missile assault by Shiite rebels that targeted the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

In response to the Saudi Arabia-led coalitions announcement to reopen Hodeidah port and Sanaa airport to humanitarian assistance, Oxfam says this is an empty gesture while millions of Yemenis sees their lives threatened by the two-week blockade on the country.

It added the decision would take effect from November 23, Reuters reported.

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

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The coalition said it would reopen Hodeida port to receive "urgent humanitarian and relief materials" and Sanaa airport to United Nations aircraft from midday on Thursday (0900 GMT).

"We're monitoring these developments", Haq told reporters in NY.

Aid group Save the Children welcomed the coalition's announcement but warned that it was "nowhere near enough to avert a potential starvation in Yemen". "If that were to happen that would be a very welcome and critically important development".

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

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United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters at United Nations headquarters in NY that senior United Nations humanitarian and political officials received information from their Saudi counterparts on Wednesday, indicating a willingness to open the airport and ports "over the next day".

McGoldrick says 7 million of Yemen's 27 million people rely on food aid.

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.

A New-York based relief group has urged an end to the continuing blockade that serves as a "collective punishment" of Yemenis and risks driving 500 children into malnutrition every week. "All sea and air ports must be fully reopened immediately to both humanitarian and commercial access to save millions of innocent Yemeni people".

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Each week, the group said, 500 children join hundreds of thousands suffering from malnutrition.

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