The Latest: UN official warns of famine threat for Yemen
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The latest on the conflict in Yemen (all times local):
The head of the U.N. World Food Program is warning that hundreds of thousands of children in Yemen will be “on the brink of starvation” if the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of air, sea and land access lasts for even two weeks.
David Beasley said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press that about 70 percent of Yemen’s 27 million to 28 million people “do not know where they’re going to get their next meal.”
He says his agency is reaching only 7 million Yemenis, “partly because of lack of funds and partly because of lack of access.”
Beasley says if access remains shut down, “I can’t imagine this will not be one of the most devastating humanitarian catastrophes we’ve seen in decades.”
The U.N. is expressing concern at the Saudi-led coalition’s closing of all airports, seaports and land crossings in Yemen, warning that this may hamper the delivery of vitally needed humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the U.N. expected to have two flights to Yemen on Monday, but no flight clearances were granted.
“We are in touch with our counterparts and we’re trying to see whether we can get our normal access restored, and we’re hopeful that we will be able to continue our normal operations,” he said.
Since the coalition has said the closings are temporary, Haq said that the U.N. expects “our flights as well as those of others to resume” and hopes “it will not take too long.”
The U.N. called “for restraint on all sides” and urged all parties to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure as required by international humanitarian law.
A U.N. agency has suspended clearances for ships heading to Yemen and has urged all ships docking in the country’s Red Sea ports to leave immediately.
That’s according to an email obtained by The Associated Press on Monday from the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen, in Djibouti. The note also says all further clearances are being “temporarily suspended until further notice.”
Meanwhile, the rebel-run SABA news agency says top Houthi commanders and militiamen have inspected new naval missiles that have allegedly been manufactured locally.
The report says Saleh al-Sammad, head of the Houthis’ Supreme Political Council, visited the port city of Hodieda, a major life line to northern Yemen, where the Houthis are in control.
The Saudi-led coalition, at war with Houthis, accuses the rebels of using the port to smuggle Iranian weapons. Al-Sammad is on a Saudi bounty list, along with more than 35 other wanted Houthi officials.
Saudi Arabia has barred Yemen’s president, along with his sons, ministers and other officials, from returning to the country for months, Yemeni officials tell The Associated Press.
Hadi and many of his officials fled to Saudi early on in the war in Yemen, now in its third year, and have lived in Riyadh for much of it.
The officials say the kingdom took the decision ostensibly to protect Hadi and his government, but added that it was also made to appease the United Arab Emirates, its top ally, which is hostile to Hadi and opposed to his return. Saudi and UAE are the two major pillars of an Arab coalition battling Shiite Houthis rebels in Yemen under the pretext of restoring Hadi’s legitimate government to power. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation.
In August, Hadi was turned back at Riyadh airport as he tried to return to Yemen, one official said. Hadi has repeatedly asked Saudi King Salman to allow him to return but has not received replies, he added.
Saudi Arabia is blaming Iran for Yemen Shiite rebels launching a ballistic missile at its capital, Riyadh, warning it could be “considered as an act of war.”
That’s according to a statement early Monday from the Saudi-led coalition now battling Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies in Yemen on behalf of its internationally recognized government.
The statement said: “Iran’s role and its direct command of its Houthi proxy in this matter constitutes a clear act of aggression that targets neighboring countries, and threatens peace and security in the region and globally. Therefore, the coalition’s command considers this a blatant act of military aggression by the Iranian regime, and could rise to be considered as an act of war against the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The statement adds: “The coalition command also affirms that the Kingdom reserves its right to respond to Iran in the appropriate time and manner.”
Iran has backed the Houthi rebels, but denies arming them. There was no immediate response from Iran over the Saudi threat.
A Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen says it has closed the land, sea and air ports of the Arab world’s poorest country after a rebel-launched ballistic missile targeted Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh.
A statement early Monday accused Iran of supplying Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies with the ballistic missile. The Houthi militants have said their Volcano variant missile is locally produced.
Iran has backed the Houthis, but denies arming them.
The Saudi-led coalition’s statement says the closures will be temporary and “take into account” the work of humanitarian and aid organizations.
The war has claimed more than 10,000 lives and driven the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine.