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Saudi alliance bombs Sanaa airport, blocking aid access

Saudi alliance bombs Sanaa airport, blocking aid access
From Al Jazeera - November 14, 2017

Yemen's Houthi rebels have accused the Saudi-led coalition of bombing the country's main international airport, destroying a navigation station that is critical to receiving already limited aid shipments.

Houthi officials told Al Jazeera two air strikes targeted Sanaa's international airport in the rebel-held capital early on Tuesday, making it unusable for aid flights and further complicating humanitarian efforts into the country.

"This attack is intended to cause maximum damage and deprive millions of Yemenis from receiving life-saving food and medicines," Mohammed, a Houthi official who declined to give his surname, said.

The Saudi-led coalition forced the closure of Sanaa airport in August 2016 to all but a few UN aid flights.

The Houthi-run General Authority for Civil Aviation said in a statement the air strike "led to the total destruction of the VOR/DME radio navigation system, taking it offline and thus halting the only flights at Sanaa airport - those of the UN and other international organisations delivering humanitarian assistance".

"The authority emphasises that attack is an explicit violation of international covenants and treaties, which stipulate that civilian airports are not targeted," it added.

Last week, the Saudi-led coalition intensified its embargo on Yemen, closing all of the country'sland, sea and air ports after Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile towards the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The kingdom intercepted the missile and no one was injured, but within hours it imposed a fresh blockade, claiming it aimed at preventing weapons being smuggled into Yemen by its regional rival, Iran.

We heard [from the Saudis] that Aden and Mukalla ports are now open - but this is not enough. This does not replace Hodeidah port and Sanaa airport - we need to allow these ports to operate as normal. Humanitarian aid cannot replace commercial shipments.

Rasha Muhrez, Save the Children

On Monday, the coalition said it would ease the blockade and allow flights to Aden and open the southern city's port, but it refused to reopen Hodeidah port.

The UN says the closure ofHodeida port puts millions of civilians in the north at risk. Aden port, which is controlled by the coalition, does not have the capacity to handle the volume of humanitarian cargo and would mean hazardous cross-line deliveries.

'Immediate assistance'

George Khoury, the UN country director for Yemen, told Al Jazeera he was "concerned" Tuesday's air strikes could affect operations in the country.

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