The fragile truce in Yemen takes a hit with the cancellation of a commercial flight – The Organization for World Peace
A Sanaa-Amman flight scheduled for Sunday April 26 has been indefinitely postponed amid an increasingly fragile truce between the internationally recognized Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels. The two sides trade blame as to why the flight was canceled. The flight was to depart from Aden, a government-controlled southern port city, stop in the capital Sanaa and then take passengers seeking medical treatment to Amman, the Jordanian capital. It would have been the first commercial flight from Sanaa airport since flights were suspended in August 2016 due to airstrikes in the ongoing civil war. Aid groups including the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) hoped flights would resume under the ceasefire as thousands of sick Yemeni civilians did not receive adequate medical care during the commercial break. .
Houthi authorities in Sanaa were quick to accuse the Saudi-led military coalition of denying necessary permits for the flight. Hours before the flight departed, Yemenia, the country’s national airline, expressed “deep regret to the travelers for not being allowed to operate” as they had “not yet received an operating permit”. Deputy head of civil aviation in Sanaa, Raed Talib Jabal, said the cancellation was “a violation of the truce” and part of the coalition’s deliberate attempt “to double the suffering of the Yemeni people while seeking to mislead international public opinion on the humanitarian file.
The internationally recognized government claimed the Houthis were trying to smuggle members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Lebanese Hezbollah into the flight. Moammar al-Eryani, the government’s information minister, said the Houthis violated the agreement by providing rebel-issued passports, which the coalition has not recognized since March 2017, and insisting on adding sixty additional passengers on the flight, many of whom used “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.
UN Special Envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg voiced expressed concern on Sunday over the delay, urging both parties “to find a solution that allows flights to resume as planned”. The truce “is meant to benefit civilians, including reducing violence, making fuel available and improving their freedom of movement to, from and within their country,” he said. Rights groups are also disappointed with the result. NRC Yemeni Director Erin Hutchinson mentioned, “That would have been the first small but important step towards lasting stability in Yemen.”
A UN-brokered 60-day truce came into effect on April 2, paving the way for Sanaa airport to resume commercial flights. The truce has allowed some of the humanitarian aid to already have an impact; however, thousands of people are still in urgent need of medical attention, forcing commercial flights to leave Sanaa. Yemen’s new government board of directors and the Houthi leadership must find a solution that allows flights to resume in accordance with the truce. More setbacks present a higher likelihood that the truce will eventually fail, plunging civilians back into a civil war already in its seventh year. Both sides must unite to allow commercial flights to continue, creating a greater likelihood of the truce being renewed.
Houthi forces control Sanaa since the capture of the capital and much of northern Yemen in 2014. Internationally recognized President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi was forced into exile in Riyadh as the Houthi movement protested Hadi’s increasingly centralized control of power. In early 2015, a Saudi-led military coalition launched a war in support of Hadi, waging extensive bombing campaigns in Houthi-held territory. The country has since become a regional proxy war, with Iran backing the Houthis. Coalition blockades on ports and the closure of Sanaa airport have devastated the country, which depends on imports for 70% of its food. The lack of food, coupled with shortages of medicine, has claimed thousands of lives and, according to projections, 19 million people will face hunger and malnutrition in the second half of 2022.
It is imperative that solutions are found to allow Sanaa airport to continue its commercial flights. Only through close cooperation between Yemen’s internationally recognized leadership council and Houthi leaders can a truce be maintained. A continued ceasefire is essential for thousands of people to access the medical care they need and for much-needed food and fuel to enter the country and alleviate suffering. A recovering Yemen must be centered on the unhindered flow of people and humanitarian aid into, within and out of the country.