Saudi Arabia is considering temporary halts in coalition air strikes against Houthi fighters in Yemen to allow for aid deliveries, the kingdom’s foreign minister has said.
Adel al-Jubeir’s announcement came as clashes raged in southern Yemen between the Houthis and fighters allied with exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, killing at least 30 people.
Saudi Arabia will consult members of the coalition on “finding specific areas inside Yemen … where all air operations will be paused at specific times to allow for the delivery of aid”, Jubeir said in a statement on Monday.
For his part, John Kerry, US secretary of state, will visit Riyadh for discussions with Saudi government leaders on May 6 and May 7 to discuss the “humanitarian pause”.
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The UN has repeatedly warned that impoverished Yemen faces a major humanitarian crisis and calls have been growing for efforts to increase aid deliveries.
Jubeir said Saudi Arabia “plans to establish a centre on its territory to be in charge of coordinating all humanitarian aid efforts” with the UN, donors and other relevant agencies.
He warned the rebels against “taking advantage” of any pause in the bombing.
Saudi Arabia “will deal with any violations in connection with the suspension of air strikes or movements that hinder humanitarian efforts”, he said.
Also on Monday, the UN said the Arab coalition should stop targeting Yemen’s Sanaa airport.
“No flights can take off or land while the runways are being repaired,” Johannes Van Der Klaauw, UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said in a statement.
“I strongly urge the coalition to stop targeting Sanaa international airport and to preserve this important lifeline – and all other airports and seaports – so that humanitarians can reach all those affected by the armed conflict in Yemen.”
Fuel for infrastructure
The UN has called for a humanitarian pause in the conflict, as relief agencies say they desperately need supplies, including fuel to run infrastructure such as hospitals.
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It warned that key infrastructure in the war-torn country, including water supplies, health services and telecommunications, are on the verge of breaking down due to a major fuel shortage.
The UN’s Van Der Klaauw, said on Saturday that an arms embargo was affecting delivery of supplies, urging a humanitarian pause “at least for a couple of days”.
Senegal said on Monday that it was sending 2,100 troops to help back the military intervention led by Saudi Arabia, becoming the first sub-Saharan African country to contribute soldiers to the effort.
“This Senegalese contribution to the international coalition is equally aimed at protecting Islam’s holy places Mecca and Medina which are also threatened by these terrorist groups,” Mankeur Ndiaye, foreign affairs minister, said.
At least 1,200 people have been killed in fighting in Yemen since March 19 and thousands more have been wounded, according to the UN. It estimates that at least 300,000 people have been displaced by the conflict.