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UN urges Saudi coalition to reopen Yemen ports amid Sanaa airport bombing

UN urges Saudi coalition to reopen Yemen ports amid Sanaa airport bombing
From CBC - November 14, 2017

The Saudi-led military coalition fighting Yemen's Shia rebels bombed the airport in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, on Tuesday, Yemeni officials said, though there were conflicting reports as to the extension of damage caused in the strike.

The United Nations said most of the airport remained intact and that it would be able to receive aid shipments once they restartafter the coalition loosens the blockade of the war-torn country as it had announced.

But Yemeni officials in Sanaa, which is held by the rebels known as Houthis, said the airport's runway and a ground navigation tower were damaged. Repair crews were already at work, they added, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Jamie McGoldrick of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said UN staff had visited the airport and spoken with authorities there, and that its "runway, taxiway, ramp, terminal and air traffic control tower were not hit and are in good condition."

"This will have no impact on our operations once they resume," McGoldrick said in an email from Amman, Jordan.

The U.S.-backed coalition has been at war with the Houthis, since March 2015. The coalition closed all Yemen air, land and sea ports last week in response to a rebel ballistic missile attack on Riyadh.

The coalition said on Monday that it would reopen ports in areas held by allied forces and loosen restrictions it had raised after the firing of the missile, which was intercepted near Riyadh's international airport.

However, McGoldrick said earlier in the day that there was "no indication" the coalition was actually lifting the blockade in line with its announcement.

He said that coalition announcements of the availability of two ports in southern Yemen are "helpful," but that the key need is access to the rebel-held Red Sea ports of Salif and Hodeida, closer to large population centres, which are currently inaccessible to UNaid shipments. Both ports are in rebel-held territory.

"We have some 21 million people needing assistance and seven million of those are in famine-like conditions and rely completely on food aid," McGoldrick said.

Vaccine supplies running low

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