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Houthi-issued passports disrupt departure of first commercial flight from Sanaa

Travellers walk out of Sanaa airport upon their arrival in Sanaa, Yemen April 24, 2022. (REUTERS)
Travellers walk out of Sanaa airport upon their arrival in Sanaa, Yemen April 24, 2022. (REUTERS)
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25 Apr 2022 12:04:28 GMT9
25 Apr 2022 12:04:28 GMT9
  • Militia accused of seeking to smuggle out military experts from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah
  • UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg expresses concern

Saeed Al-Batati

AL-MUKALLA: The first commercial flight planned to take off from the Houthi-held Sanaa airport to Amman on Sunday was indefinitely postponed after the Yemeni militia insisted on adding dozens of passengers with unauthorized passports on the flight, Yemen’s information minister said.

As part of the two-month humanitarian truce that came into effect on April 2, Muammar Al-Eryani said that the Yemeni government allowed the Yemenia airline to carry 104 passengers who have passports issued in government-controlled areas on its first commercial flight from Sanaa airport on April 24.

The Yemeni minister said the Houthis breached the deal, however, and insisted on adding 60 more passengers with passports issued by the militia, accusing the Houthis of seeking to smuggle military experts from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah out of the country using fake names and forged documents.

The government agreed to allow 104 passengers to travel on the first flight from Sanaa International Airport to Amman, “but the terrorist Houthi militia refused and insisted and still insists on adding 60 passengers with unreliable passports,” Al-Eryani said, urging the world, mainly the UN and its envoy to Yemen, to pressure the Houthis to stop obstructing the departure of the flight and aggravating the suffering of Yemenis who live in areas under their control.

“The international community, the UN and its envoy are required to pressure the terrorist Houthi militia…not to take citizens in areas under its control as hostages.”

Under the UN-brokered truce, Sanaa airport would be opened for two flights weekly to Amman and Cairo, as 18 fuel ships would be allowed to enter the Hodeidah seaport. Warring factions also agreed to stop fighting on all fronts and to form a joint committee to monitor ending the Houthi siege of Taiz.

Responding to the news about the delayed flight, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg on Sunday expressed his concerns over the flight and urged Yemeni parties to work with his office to “find a solution that allows the flights to resume as planned,” he said, adding that he is working with the parties to shore up the truce amid reports of hundreds of violations across the country.

“The truce is meant to benefit civilians including through reducing violence, making fuel available, and improving their freedom of movement to, from and within their country,” he said.

At the same time, Yemen’s new Presidential Leadership Council has renewed its commitment to the truce, accusing the Houthis of attacking its forces and rejecting calls to immediately lift their siege of Taiz by refusing to name their representatives in the joint committee on the city in southwestern Yemen.

Chaired by Rashad Al-Alimi, the council held a meeting in Aden, the interim capital of Yemen, on Saturday, to discuss the Houthis’ violations of the truce, the siege of Taiz and other issues.

The council pledged to adhere to the truce despite the Houthi violations and urged the Houthis to remove their checkpoints blockading roads in Taiz.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry on Sunday announced shooting down an explosives-rigged drone fired by the Houthis over the government-controlled Jarah mountain, west of Taiz. The drone is the latest in a series of hundreds of truce violations by the Houthis since April 2.  

On Friday alone, the Yemeni army said, the Houthis violated the truce 94 times by repositioning forces, launching drones and attacking government troops in the provinces of Jouf, Taiz, Saada, Marib, Abyan and Hajjah.  

Similarly, Yemeni human rights activists and officials have voiced their demands to the Houthis to end their seven-year-long siege of Taiz, which has brought the densely populated city to the brink of famine.

Undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice Faisal Al-Magedi on Sunday criticized international aid organizations and mediators for not giving the Houthi siege of Taiz as much attention as they have with Sanaa airport or Hodeidah seaport, noting that the siege has stifled the city and its tens of thousands of residents.

“The Houthis prevented all means of life from entering the city and forced people to use a bumpy and dangerous road. The Houthis treat the siege of Taiz as a military file. This is a purely humanitarian file,” Al-Magedi said.

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