Coalition bombs airport runway in Yemen capital
Conflicting reports emerge regarding extent of damage suffered by facility
SANAA: The Saudi-led military coalition fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels bombed the airport in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, Tuesday, Yemeni officials said, although there were conflicting reports as to the extension of damage caused in the strike.
The U.N. said most of the airport remained intact and that it would be able to receive aid shipments once they restart – after the coalition loosens the blockade of the war-torn country as it had announced.
However, Yemeni officials in Sanaa, which is held by the Houthi rebels, said that the airports runway and a ground navigation tower were damaged. Repair crews were already at work, they added, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
The strike “led to the total destruction of the VOR/DME radio navigation system, taking it offline and thus halting the only flights at Sanaa airport – those of the United Nations and other international organizations delivering humanitarian assistance,” the rebel-run General Authority for Civil Aviation said in a statement.
Jamie McGoldrick of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said U.N. staff had visited the airport and spoken with authorities there, and that its “runway, taxiway, ramp, terminal and air traffic control tower were not hit and are in good condition.”
“This will have no impact on our operations once they resume,” McGoldrick said in an email from Amman, Jordan.
The U.S.-backed coalition has been at war in Yemen with the rebels, known as Houthis, since March 2015. The coalition closed all Yemen air, land and sea ports last week in response to a rebel ballistic missile attack on Riyadh.
The coalition said Monday that it would reopen ports in areas held by allied forces and loosen restrictions it had raised after the firing of the missile, which was intercepted near Riyadh’s international airport.
However, McGoldrick said earlier in the day that there was “no indication” the coalition was actually lifting the blockade in line with its announcement.
He said that coalition announcements of the availability of two ports in southern Yemen are “helpful,” but that the key need is access to the rebel-held Red Sea ports of Salif and Hudaida, closer to large population centers, which are currently inaccessible to U.N. aid shipments. Both ports are in rebel-held territory.
The United Nations dismissed a Saudidemandthattighterinspections be put in place at Hudaida port before a devastating blockade is lifted.
The reported airstrike on Sanaa airport came as flights resumed to the airport in the government-held southern city of Aden, after the coalition granted permission for them to resume.
An official with the national carrier, Yemenia, announced a commercial flight from Cairo had landed in Aden and later departed, in first in a week.
“The flights will increase gradually in the coming days,” the official said, addingYemeniawouldresumeitsfour weekly flights from Aden to Cairo, two to Jeddah and Riyadh, three to Amman and one to Khartoum.
Aden’s port, which is controlled by allies of Saudi Arabia, does not have the capacity, according to the U.N., to
handle the necessary volume of humanitarian cargo and would mean hazardous cross-line deliveries.
In other developments Tuesday, Daesh (ISIS) struck a fresh blow to Saudi-allied forces in the country’s south, where a suicide car bombing
targeted security forces in Aden, killing at least six people and wounding scores.
The Daesh-claimed attack took place at a building in the Sheikh Othman district in the central part of the city. Residents several kilometers away heard a large explosion and saw thick black smoke rising from the area. The attack caused panic in this densely populated area, which is busy with schools, markets and street vendors.
Ambulances rushed to the site, where the building was badly damaged, and debris and body parts littered the area.
According to medical officials, six soldiers were killed but officials believe the death toll will rise. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media.
The security building is an operations center for the Security Belt, a parallel body to the government’s forces that is trained by the United Arab Emirates, a main pillar in the Saudi-led coalition. –
Security personnel organized by the Saudi-led coalition gather at the site of a suicide car bomb attack outside a police forces camp in Aden, Yemen.