The International Committee of the Red Cross has said it hopes to bring vital medical supplies and aid workers into Yemen after receiving approval from the Saudi-led military coalition.
The aid agency has been negotiating for nearly a week to deliver life-saving supplies and equipment to Yemen, where the coalition has conducted 11 days of air strikes against Shia rebels, known as the Houthis. The coalition now controls the country’s ports and airspace.
“We have received permission from the coalition for two planes now, one carrying supplies and one with staff,” ICRC spokeswoman Sitara Jabeen told the Reuters news agency on Sunday.
The ICRC hoped that the aircraft could land on Monday in the capital Sanaa, she said. However, it was still awaiting approval for an ICRC surgical team it plans to bring by boat into the southern city of Aden, where fighting remains intense.
In Riyadh, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition said arrangements had been made for at least one Red Cross aid delivery on Sunday morning, but the ICRC had pulled out of the arrangement.
The coalition says it has set up a special coordination body for aid deliveries and asked NGOs and governments to work with it to ensure humanitarian aid can be brought into Yemen and foreign nationals can be evacuated safely.
Peace talks flagged
Meanwhile, Yemen’s Houthi rebels said on Sunday they are open to peace talks if the Saudi-led coalition bombing their positions halts aerial attacks.
Saleh al-Sammad, who was an adviser to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, said that if the offer for talks is accepted, negotiations will be mediated by “non-aggressive” parties.
“We still stand by our position on dialogue and we demand its continuation despite everything that has happened, on the basis of respect and acknowledging the other,” said al-Sammad, in answers emailed to the Reuters news agency.
“We have no conditions except a halt to the aggression and sitting on the dialogue table within a specific time period … and any international or regional parties that have no aggressive positions towards the Yemeni people can oversee the dialogue,” Sammad said, without specifying who they might be.
Warplanes and ships from a Saudi-led coalition have been bombing the Iran-allied Houthi forces in a bid to drive back the Houthis and restore Hadi. UN brokered peace talks in the preceding weeks between Hadi and the Houthis had failed.
On Monday, Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that the Saudi-led coalition wants it to contribute ground troops while Pakistan’s parliament debated such a contribution.
Rebel gains in Aden
The comments came amid reports that the rebels, supported by army units, have gained ground in Aden, despite continuing air strikes.
The rebel forces reportedly edged close to the port of Mualla, which is defended by militiamen of “popular committees” loyal to Hadi.
Aden, the last foothold of supporters of Hadi, has been shaken by more than a week of fierce clashes between the Houthis and Hadi loyalists.
Clean water is scarce in the city and power is intermittent.
Resident Nazar Haithem told Al Jazeera that many civilians have become trapped in their homes because of fighting.
“There are bodies in the street,” he said. “We cannot get close because there are Houthi snipers on the rooftops. Anything that gets near these people [they] shoot them immediately.”