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Houthis 'ban over 35 aid agencies' as more civilians killed in Saudi strikes

More than three-quarters of Yemen's 29 million population are in need of humanitarian aid [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 January, 2018

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The UN say that rebels have banned over 35 aid agencies carrying out critical health work in the besieged country, as more civilians are reported killed after airstrikes in Saada

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have banned over 35 UN and international agencies and relief groups from working in the territory under their control, UN sources reported on Wednesday.

The ban will raise concern over the coordination of a response to what the UN has identified as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, which is in need of $3 billion dollars' worth of aid, according to the international body.

The UN sources told The Associated Press that negotiations are underway, without providing further details. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they did not have authorisation to brief the press.

A leaked document posted on Twitter by the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, operated by the government, showed a list of 35 agencies, including the World Health Organization, the UN children’s agency and Oxfam.

The document, purportedly signed by a Houthi-allied deputy health minister, orders officials to “ban them from movement in and to governorates.”

“The organisations listed here work in the health sector and haven’t passed through the Health Ministry to obtain permission for staff, medicine, and medical supplies to move between governorates and towns. They work unilaterally,” the document said.

A spokesman for the Houthi-run Health Ministry denied there was a ban.

“Clearance was necessary even before the war,” Abdel-Hakim al-Kahlani told The Associated Press. He said the agencies need permission in order to pass through checkpoints, which it can easily obtain from the Health Ministry, open 24 hours a day. “There are no restrictions, as far as I know,” he said.

Airstrikes reportedly hit the rebel stronghold of Saada, killing
civilians and children [Getty]

The same day as the purported ban, at least nine civilians, including four children, were killed in Saudi-led airstrikes in the Yemeni rebel heartland of Saada province, according to local residents and medics.

Wednesday’s casualties bring the number of those killed in military operations in the country up to 30 in the past two days.

Saudi media issued conflicting reports, saying that clashes in the Yemeni rebel heartland of Saada province have killed 40 rebel fighters in the past 24 hours. There were no reports of civilian or child casualties.

The uptick in fighting came as Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir held talks on the conflicts in Yemen and Syria with his British, US and United Arab Emirates counterparts in Paris on Tuesday.

"There can be no military solution to either conflict, only peaceful and carefully negotiated political solutions will truly end the suffering," said British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who organised the meeting.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have come under mounting international pressure over the humanitarian impact of their nearly three-year military intervention.

Despite the coalition's superior firepower, the rebels remain in control of the capital Sanaa and much of the northern highlands and Red Sea coast.

More than three-quarters of Yemen's 29 million population are in need of humanitarian aid, with some 8.4 million at risk of famine, the UN humanitarian affairs office has said.

The Saudi-led coalition this week pledged $1.5 billion in new aid for Yemen after the United Nations launched a record appeal to address what it says is the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

A Saudi-led coalition has been at war with the Iran-allied Houthis since 2015 and has severely restricted the import of aid and other vital goods. The war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced 2 million and brought about an acute cholera epidemic.

The UN called for $3 billion dollars in its 2018 humanitarian appeal for Yemen, saying 16.4 million people require assistance to ensure adequate access to health care. It is the largest such appeal ever launched for Yemen. Last year, donors covered 70 percent of a $2.34 billion appeal.

The UN Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is stepping down as a negotiator for the besieged country next month, the organisation announced on Monday without naming his successor.

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