Saudi-led coalition bombs airport runway in Yemen's capital

The U.S.-backed coalition has been at war with the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, since March 2015.

14 November 2017 | 16:13

Source: Associated Press

  • Source: Associated Press
  • Last update: 14 November 2017 | 16:13

This undated photo shows a Yemeni man who was stranded in Egypt after conflict broke out in Yemen, praying and kissing the ground after arriving at Sanaa airport in Yemen. (AP Photo)

SANAA, Yemen: The Saudi-led military coalition fighting Yemen's Shiite rebels bombed the airport in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, on Tuesday, Yemeni officials said, though there were conflicting reports as to the extension of damage caused in the strike.

The United Nations 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.

But Yemeni officials in Sanaa, which is held by the rebels known as Houthis, said the airport's 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.

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 Shiite 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 on 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 Hodeida, closer to large population centers, which are currently inaccessible to U.N. aid shipments. Both ports are in rebel-held territory.

The airport drama comes as the Islamic State group struck a fresh blow to Saudi-allied forces in the country's south, where a suicide car bombing early on Tuesday targeted security forces in the port city of Aden, killing at least six people and wounding scores.

The IS-claimed attack took place at a building in the Sheikh Othman district in the central part of the city. Residents several kilometers (miles) 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, the main pillar in the Saudi-led coalition that has backed Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and waged a two-year air campaign against the Houthis who captured Sanaa in 2014.

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