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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Yemen fighters allow aid flights to resume after air strikes

Yemenis inspect a crater following a reported air strike by the coalition targeting a road at Al Sabeen square in the Ansar Allah-held capital Sanaa, on December 23. - AFP file photo
Yemenis inspect a crater following a reported air strike by the coalition targeting a road at Al Sabeen square in the Ansar Allah-held capital Sanaa, on December 23. - AFP file photo

SANAA: Yemen's Ansar Allah fighters said on Tuesday they have allowed the temporary resumption of UN aid flights into the capital Sanaa, a week after a halt due to coalition air strikes.


"The civil aviation authority announces the resumption of UN and other organisation flights into Sanaa airport on a temporary basis," the Ansar Allah-run Al Masirah television reported.


"The (Ansar Allah administration's) foreign ministry was contacted to notify the UN and all international organisations that Sanaa airport was ready to receive flights."


Yemen has been wracked by civil war since 2014 pitting the government -- supported by the Saudi-led coalition -- against the Ansar Allah fighters who control much of the north.


Tens of thousands of people have been killed, in what the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.


Flights into the Ansar Allah-held capital have been largely halted by a Saudi-led blockade since August 2016, but there have been exemptions for aid flights that are a key lifeline for the population.


The Ansar Allah fighters had said UN aid flights into Sanaa had been halted by Saudi-led air strikes last week but the coalition said the airport had already been closed two days earlier and blamed the fighters.


Coalition spokesman Turki al Maliki said on Sunday the Ansar Allah was "militarising" Sanaa airport and using it as a "main centre for launching ballistic missiles and drones" towards the kingdom.


NO GUARANTEES


On Saturday, the coalition launched what it called a "large-scale" military operation against the Ansar Allah after its fatal attack.


The coalition raids killed three civilians, including a child and a woman, Yemeni medics said.


The coalition maintains its operations are carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law and has repeatedly accused the Ansar Allah of using civilians as human shields.


UN special envoy Hans Grundberg said the uptick in fighting "undermines the prospects of reaching a sustainable political settlement to end the conflict in Yemen."


"The escalation in recent weeks is among the worst we have seen in Yemen for years and the threat to civilian lives is increasing," Grundberg said.


He renewed a longstanding UN call for Sanaa airport to reopen permanently for commercial as well as humanitarian flights.


"Any targeting of civilians and civilian objects as well as indiscriminate attacks by any actor is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and must stop immediately," the UN envoy said.


The Ansar Allah on Tuesday accused the coalition of preventing the entry of "communication and navigation devices... into Sanaa airport to replace the old ones".


"The UN and international organisations have been informed that the long-term operation of these devices are not guaranteed, given how old they are," they added.


The Ansar Allah also warned they will "hold the UN and international organisations responsible for landing and takeoff operations in the event of a sudden device failure". - AFP


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