Saudi-led coalition denies blocking Yemen aid

A Houthi Shiite fighter stand guard as people search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi airstrikes near Sanaa Airport, Yemen
The Saudi-led Arab coalition battling rebels in support of Yemen's UN-backed government has denied accusations from rights groups that it is blocking aid and goods bound for the conflict-scarred country.

"The coalition is not imposing a siege or an economic boycott on Yemeni territory," the Riyadh-based coalition said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.

The coalition "is fulfilling its duties towards implementing UN resolutions that aim to prevent weapons and ammunitions" reaching Yemen, it added.

Rights groups have repeatedly accused the coalition, which controls air and sea access to Yemen, of preventing basic goods from reaching the country, especially in territories controlled by Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

The statement named Human Rights Watch and Paris-based Doctors Without Borders in particular for "belittling the efforts of coalition forces and their positive role in delivering humanitarian aid and facilitating access for commercial goods and fuel products."

The coalition launched a military campaign against Yemen's Shiite rebels in March last year after the insurgents advanced on President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's refuge in Aden. The insurgents had overran the capital Sanaa in September 2014.

"Coalition forces give immediate and regular permits to all aid ships to reach all Yemeni ports, without being inspected," said the statement released late Friday.

As for commercial shipments, it said that teams from the UN, the coalition and Yemen authorities inspect them, insisting that 1,462 permits have been so far granted, including for ships heading to the rebel-controlled Red Sea port of Hudaida.

The "humanitarian catastrophe" in Yemen is not caused by a lack in food or fuel supplies, the coalition said, accusing the rebels of "creating a black market."

More than 6,400 people have been killed in Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in support of Hadi's government.

Another 2.8 million people have been displaced and more than 80 per cent of the population urgently needs humanitarian aid, according to UN figures.

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