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US urges Saudis to allow humanitarian aid immediately

News - Middle East

US asks Saudi Arabia to facilitate flow of aid into the country where nearly 80 percent of people need aid to survive.

The US has urged the Saudi-led coalition to "facilitate the free flow of humanitarian aid" in Yemen as millions suffer in the war-torn country due to the land and air blockade imposed by the Saudis.

"The United States is gravely concerned by the recent escalation in violence and continued dire humanitarian conditions in Yemen," the White House said in a statement on Friday.

"We call on the Saudi-led coalition to facilitate the free flow of humanitarian aid and critical commercial goods, including fuel, through all Yemeni ports and to restore commercial flights through Sanaa Airport."

In October, the Saudi-led coalition, bombing Yemen since March 2015, imposed a total blockade on the impoverished country after a rebel missile was shot down near Saudi capital Riyadh.

According to Red Cross, nearly 80 percent of Yemeni residents need humanitarian aid to survive. Mounting international pressure forced the Saudis to allow some humanitarian aid in the last week of November.

But the killing of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh by Houthis, who control vast expanses of the country, including the capital Sanaa, has resulted in violent clashes aggravating the humanitarian situation further.

Dire humanitarian situation

The statement comes two days after US President Donald Trump called on Saudi Arabia to "completely allow food, fuel, water, and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it".

A senior US official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters news agency on Friday that the US had warned Saudi Arabia of threats in Congress over the dire humanitarian situation.

"We wanted to be very clear with Saudi officials that the political environment here could constrain us if steps aren’t taken to ease humanitarian conditions in Yemen," the senior Trump administration official said.

Speaking in Paris on Friday, Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, called on Saudi Arabia to be "measured" in its military operations in Yemen.

He demanded a "complete end" to the Saudi-led blockade of Yemen so that humanitarian aid and commercial supplies could be delivered.

His comments came after at least 23 civilians were killed in Saudi air raids in the country's north.

The US also condemned the Houthi rebels, who ousted the internationally-backed President Abd Rabbnu Mansur Hadi from power in September 2014. Hadi has since been based in Saudi Arabia running a government in exile.

"We condemn the Houthis' brutal repression of political opponents in Sana'a, including the killing of their former ally Ali Abdullah Salih and his family members, as well as their reckless missile attacks against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," the White House said.


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