Houthis close down Yemen’s Sanaa airport, hamper movement of relief flights

September 9, 2020

Iran-aligned Houthi leaders in Yemen recently announced the closure of Sanaa airport, claiming fuel shortage for the move. Significantly, Yemen’s internationally-recognised government has condemned the Houthi leaders’ action to close the Sanaa airport as it will hamper relief flights to deal with the humanitarian crisis and Coronavirus efforts in the country.

Amid the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and other international agencies have been using the airport to provide essential medical and food supplies to Yemen.As per a statement released by the Houthi group on Monday, United Nations and humanitarian flights to Sanaa International airport have been suspended over fuel shortage.

Criticising the move, the Saudi-backed Yemeni government posted a series of tweets on social media. In the tweet, the government called the closure of Sanaa airport by Houthis “a desperate attempt to cover up their theft of more than 50 billion riyals of oil derivative proceeds in Hodeidah, earmarked for paying the salaries of civilian employees in Yemen.”

Yemen’s Foreign Ministry has also alleged that the Houthis are using the airport to blackmail the international community. The ministry released a statement, saying that it “condemns the Houthi militia announcement to close Sanaa airport against relief and humanitarian flights, including those of the United Nations, and their continued trading on the suffering of Yemenis.”

Over the past few months, northern Yemen is suffering from a severe shortage of fuel. According to a government report, Houthi militias have caused a fuel crisis in the areas falling under their control by their actions to generate more revenues to fund their war and expanding the black market.

The report further stated that Yemen’s fuel imports in 2020 were sufficient enough to cover the needs of the people until a few more weeks. However, Houthis’ continuous breaches in Hodeidah and violence in other parts of the country have led to a significant 150 percent rise in the fuel price.

During a virtual meeting with the UK’s ambassador to Yemen Michael Aron, Yemeni parliament speaker Sultan Al-Barkani urged the international community to not give in to pressure by Houthi leaders over the decaying Safer tanker parked off the western city of Houthi-controlled Hodeidah carrying more than a million barrels of oil.

United Nations envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has also been in communication with both the rival sides to find an urgent solution to the fuel crisis and effective use of revenues for payment of salaries of the state employees.

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