Postponement of the first commercial flight from Sanaa in six years | Houthi News

The first commercial flight from the rebel-held Yemeni capital in six years was postponed indefinitely on Sunday, dealing a blow to an already fragile truce in the country’s bitter conflict, as rival parties traded blame for the flight’s postponement.

The Sanaa-Amman flight had been planned as part of the United Nations-brokered truce agreement that the internationally recognized government and Houthi rebels reached earlier this month.

The 60-day truce, which came into effect on April 2, is part of concerted international and regional efforts to find a settlement to the conflict that has devastated the Arab world’s poorest country and pushed it on the verge of starvation.

The Saudi-led military coalition launched a war in early 2015 in support of internationally recognized President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was forced into exile months after the Iran-backed Houthis broke up seized Sanaa and much of northern Yemen.

In recent years, the conflict has evolved into a regional proxy war that has claimed more than 150,000 lives, including at least 14,500 civilians. It has also created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

blame game

As part of the truce, the two sides agreed to operate two commercial flights a week to and from Sanaa to Jordan and Egypt. Sanaa is blocked by the Saudi-led coalition which is preventing the supply of essential goods, including life-saving medicines.

However, the two sides failed to agree on the operation of the flight more than three weeks after the truce took effect. They traded blame for the failure.

Calling it a “breach” of the truce, authorities in Sanaa said the flight was postponed after it was denied necessary clearances from the Saudi-led coalition.

In Houthi-controlled Sanaa, deputy civil aviation chief Raed Talib Jabal said the coalition’s refusal to allow Sunday’s flight was “a violation of the truce” that began at the start of the month.

“The coalition of aggression deliberately seeks to double the suffering of the Yemeni people, while seeking to deceive international public opinion on the humanitarian file,” he said.

The Yemeni government blamed Iran-backed Houthi rebels for the delay, saying they had tried to “smuggle” members of the Revolutionary Guards and the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah on the flight.

Moammar al-Eryani, information minister in the internationally recognized government, said the Houthis failed to adhere to the deal by providing passengers with rebel-issued passports, which he has not recognized since March 2017.

He said the government had allowed 104 passengers to travel on the Sanaa-Amman flight, but the Houthis insisted on adding another 60 passengers “with unreliable passports” using “false names and false documents”.

The flight “failed due to the non-respect by the Houthi terrorist militia of the agreement stipulating the approval of passports issued by the legitimate government”, al-Eryani said.

A Houthi spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

“Profound disappointment”

The UN special envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, expressed concern about the delay and urged the parties to work with his office “to find a solution that allows flights to resume as planned”.

A renewable two-month truce that came into effect in early April “is intended to benefit civilians, including by reducing violence, making fuel available and improving their freedom of movement to, from and within their country. “, he said on Sunday.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) also expressed its “deep disappointment” at the cancellation of the flight.

“It would have been a small but important first step towards lasting stability in Yemen. It is also a lifeline for tens of thousands of medical patients who desperately need urgent treatment abroad,” NRC Yemen Country Director Erin Hutchinson said in a statement.

“We hope both sides will honor their truce commitments, including allowing flights from Sanaa airport and opening routes to Taiz and other governorates.”

The plane, operated by the national airline Yemenia, was to take off from Aden, a government-controlled southern port city, stop in Sanaa and take passengers in need of medical attention to Amman, the Jordanian capital.

But hours before the flight, the airline said “it has not yet received an operating permit”. He expressed “deep regret to the travelers for not being allowed to operate” the long-awaited flight.

Yemenia added that she hoped “all issues will be resolved in the near future”, without specifying a date.

Sick passengers stranded

The postponement of the flight was a setback for a truce deal that has provided a rare respite from violence across much of the country, and has also seen tankers start arriving at the port of Hodeidah, potentially easing fuel shortages in Sanaa and elsewhere.

In another potentially promising sign, on April 7, Yemen’s President Hadi handed over his powers to a new leadership council tasked with holding peace talks with the Houthis.

Sanaa Airport has been closed to commercial traffic since August 2016, when airstrikes disrupted service to the city.

Aid flights continue to land in Sanaa, although service is interrupted periodically.

The disruption of commercial flights prevented “thousands of sick Yemeni civilians from seeking emergency medical care outside the country”, aid groups CARE and NRC said last August.

They also cited “economic losses estimated in the billions”.

Daily flights from Aden as well as the eastern city of Seiyun serve both the country and other countries in the region.

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