Saudi Arabia says it has bombed the runway in the Yemeni capital Sanaa to stop an Iranian flight from landing there because it allegedly refused to coordinate its flight with the coalition.
A spokesman for the Saudi led coalition said that the runway is now out of service and is no longer able to accept aid flights.
Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri told Reuters that the plane had not coordinated with the authorities and ignored warnings to turn back.
Iran’s state news agency IRNA said the plane belonged to the Red Crescent and was carrying food and medical supplies. They said Saudi jets tried to force it turn back but the pilots ignored these “illegal warnings”.
Yemen is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe and the situation is being made considerably worse by the fact that the Saudi-led forces are not allowing any ships or planes including those carrying aid into Yemen unless they have been cleared by the military.
The backed-up traffic this has created could last for weeks. Already at least ten ships carrying wheat and corn are stuck at ports waiting to unload, and the UN has been forced to start using its own flour stocks.
12 million people in what is one of the poorest Arab countries are already suffering food shortages, 25 million are without fuel and 13 million lack access to water.
“The capital is suffering from a severe water shortage. People are also queuing to get gas and cereals,” one Sanaa resident told RT.
“The Saudi aerial and sea embargo is hitting us harder than the bombardments. I would rather die in an air strike than because of hunger. This is a slow death,” said another man.
An activist for the Syrian Youth Movement in the UK, Dani Maki, told RT that Saudi Arabia is oblivious to the worsening humanitarian situation.
“We have no water, we have no electricity, we have blackouts, there was even a shortage of communications because of the lack of fuel. In the words of the UN it’s a catastrophe. The richest country in the Arab world is bombing the poorest country, so the fact that Saudi Arabia could have any humanitarian narrative in Yemen is completely baseless and it is hell bent on fighting these Houthi rebels at the expense of the entire Yemeni population,” he said.
Imad Aoun, Oxfam’s Middle East media adviser told RT that the blockade is having a serious effect on their ability to deliver aid.
“The closure of the import routes has definitely impacted us but it has also impacted the rest of the Yemenis. We know that in Hadida they have been out of water for two or three days now and that’s a city of half a million people,” he said.
Saudi led air strikes have been going on for a month. Their purpose is to target the Houthi militia who has strong relations to Iran but who control most of western Yemen including Sanaa but the campaign has taken a terrible toll on civilians.
General Asseri said that the coalition would help rebuild the runway but said the Houthis were in control of the airport.