Saudi-led coalition airstrikes destroy 'navigation aids' at Sanaa airport, halting aid flights

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes destroy 'navigation aids' at Sanaa airport, halting aid flights
Authorities in Yemen's rebel-controlled capital said a Saudi-led air strike on Tuesday destroyed a navigation station at Sanaa airport, which is critical to receiving already limited aid shipments.

3 min read
15 November, 2017
The airport was used to deliver much-needed aid to the impoverished country [Getty]

A Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Yemen's capital destroyed a navigation station at Sanaa airport, which is critical to receiving already limited aid shipments, local authorities capital said on Tuesday.

The 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 United Nations and other international organisations delivering humanitarian assistance", the rebel-run General Authority for Civil Aviation said in a statement.

AFP was unable to immediately confirm the report.

Saudi Arabia and its allies tightened a longstanding blockade of Yemen's land, sea and air borders a week ago in response to a missile fired by Houthi rebels that was intercepted near Riyadh international airport.

On Monday, Riyadh announced that it would be re-opening the airports and seaports in the Arab world's poorest country following international pressure.

But the UN dismissed a Saudi demand that tighter inspections be put in place at Yemen's rebel-held Hodeida port before a devastating blockade is lifted. 

The world body has insisted its aid operations need access to the ports of Hodeida and Saleef, saying that more than two-thirds of the people in need and 80 percent of all cholera cases are closest to the two ports.

The reported airstrike on Sanaa airport came as flights resumed to the airport in the government-held southern city of Aden, after the coalition granted permission for them to resume.

An official with the national carrier, Yemenia, announced a commerical flight from Cairo had landed in Aden and later departed, the first since the blockade was imposed.

"The flights will increase gradually in the coming days," the official said, noting Yemenia would resume its four weekly flights from Aden to Cairo, two to Jeddah and Riyadh, three to Amman and one to Khartoum.

Meanwhile, Aden's port - which is controlled by allies of Saudi Arabia - does not have the capacity, according to the UN, to handle the necessary volume of humanitarian cargo and would mean hazardous cross-line deliveries.

'Houthi revenge'

The latest strikes came as a Houthi leader vowed retaliation against Saudi Arabia on Monday after the kingdom announced de-escalation measures in Yemen.

The fiery comments by Saleh al-Sammad, the head of the Presidency Council of the Houthis, came during a rally of thousands of rebel supporters marching down a main boulevard in the capital, Sanaa.

Sammad said that with the blockade, the coalition "shut down all doors for peace and dialogue".

The more the blockade tightens, he said, the more the Houthis will develop their abilities to "respond to the assault of the enemy".

After two years of a devastating war, the Houthis still control much of Yemen's north while the south falls under the embattled President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognised by the international community and who is supported by the Saudi-led coalition.

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 Hadi government 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.