Saudi Arabia lifts blockade on key Yemen port of Hodeidah 'for 30 days'

Saudi Arabia lifts blockade on key Yemen port of Hodeidah 'for 30 days'
Saudi Arabia has agreed under international pressure to reopen Hodeidah port in Yemen to allow desperately needed food aid and fuel to enter the war-torn country.
3 min read
21 December, 2017
Saudi media said food and fuel will be allowed into Yemen via Hodeidah port [Getty]
Saudi Arabia said it has reopened Yemen's Hodeidah port to allow food aid and commercial fuel into the poverty-stricken country.

The kingdom, which imposed a blockade on Yemen sea and air ports after Houthi rebels fired a missile at Riyadh, said the key port will remain open for a minimum of 30 days, according to Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

"The port of Hodeidah will remain open for humanitarian and relief supplies and the entry of commercial vessels, including fuel and food vessels, for a period of 30 days," SPA said in a statement.

Aid agencies, including the UN, have been warning that a month-long blockade on the port was cutting off aid to millions of Yemenis who are at increasingly close risk of famine.
Read more: Saudi Arabia's blockade hits ordinary Yemenis hardest
British government officials said ministers had presented operational details to Saudi officials on ships waiting for clearance, and this had helped lift restrictions on three commercial food ships and one fuel ship.

The officials said the first fuel vessel to be cleared to enter Hodeidah in more than a month was due to dock in the next 24 hours. Fuel is vital to pump water, transport food and mill grain. Yemen aid agencies on the ground also said they expected shipments to start moving shortly.
Read also: Suspected cholera cases reach one million in Yemen
In a country which was highly dependent on food imports even before the war, aid groups estimate that some 22 million Yemenis – three quarters of the population – now rely on aid to survive.

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson tweeted on Wednesday that he had been "urging this step for some time".

Prime Minister Theresa May also spoke to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by telephone and welcomed the Saudi decision to reopen the port.

According to Downing Street, she said that British officials travelled to the region to "assist with the UN inspection process, helping to speed up the distribution of much-needed humanitarian and commercial supplies".

May added the Crown Prince will be visiting the UK in the New Year.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in neighbouring Yemen in March 2015 to push back the rebels who control the capital Sanaa, in an attempt to restore the government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to power.

But the military intervention, which has triggered widespread criticism from the international community, has left more than 10,000 people, most of which civilians, dead.

On Wednesday, marking 1,000 days since the beginning of the war, a newly launched online campaign called Yemen Can't Wait saw some 350 public figures sign an open letter urging the United States, Britain and France to do more to end the conflict.