Saudi Arabia to allow humanitarian aid into Yemen when ‘time is right’


Despite calls from the Red Cross for an immediate cessation in air strikes to allow aid into Yemen, Saudi Arabia stalls on decision

Yemeni people wait to buy wheat, floor and dry food in Ibb on 4 April, 2015 (AA)
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Last update: 
Sunday 5 April 2015 14:49 UTC

Aid will be allowed into strife-torn Yemen when conditions are right, the Saudi-led military coalition said after the International Committee of the Red Cross urged a 24-hour ceasefire to address “dire” conditions on the ground.

On Saturday, the Red Cross called for an immediate 24-hour pause in air strikes to “bring in desperately needed medical supplies and personnel.”

Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed Assiri told reporters on Saturday that delivering aid to Yemen is down to his country.

"The humanitarian operation is part of our job, part of our responsibility,” he said.

The operation has closed airports and restricted movements at seaports, hampering aid deliveries.

Hospitals treating the wounded are running short of medicines and the streets of the southern city of Aden are strewn with bodies, the Red Cross said, calling for “an immediate halt to the fighting.”

It added that food stocks are running low and there are fuel and water shortages.

Assiri said aid “will come when we are able to set the conditions (so) that this aid will benefit the population.”

He said the coalition requires that aid delivery does not interfere with the military operation, that aid workers are not put at risk, and that supplies do not fall into the wrong hands.

“We don’t want to supply the militias,” Assiri said.

The coalition aims to defeat the Houthis who seized power in the capital Sanaa in February, and who Riyadh feared would take over the entire country and shift it into the orbit of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.

The Houthis, allied with army units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been fighting forces loyal to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled to the Saudi capital Riyadh late last month from Aden.

The air strikes and fighting on the ground have made civilians very vulnerable, the aid group Action Against Hunger said on Saturday.

“There are now tens of thousands of people fleeing the conflict zones who find themselves on the road or taking refuge in villages,” the Paris-based group said in a statement.

Russia on Saturday presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for a humanitarian pause in the air campaign to allow the evacuation of foreigners.

The 15-member Council held an emergency session on Yemen on Saturday amid growing concerns over civilian casualties in the Saudi-led military campaign, Operation Decisive Storm, now in its 11th day.

Assiri said Russia, India, Indonesia, Algeria and Pakistan have already taken out their citizens.

China, Djibouti, Egypt and Sudan, along with two aid groups, are scheduled to conduct evacuations as soon as Sunday while requests from others including Canada, Germany and Iraq are being processed, he said.

On Saturday night, 55 Turkish citizens arrived in Istanbul from Yemen via Djibouti.

One man, Ali Usumus, told a news agency about witnessing the bombing campaign in Yemen.

“We are coming from the Yemeni seaport city of Aden, where we were exposed to heavy bombing,” Usumus said. “It was a very difficult time for us.”

“Yemen and Aden are in ruin. Local people there are in a tough situation,” he added.