Saudi Arabia proposes own port for aid to Yemen

Vital food and medicine could be shipped through Jizan port to avoid Yemen's rebel-controlled Hodeida port
By AFP
Fri 22 Sep 2017 12:45 AM

Saudi Arabia on Thursday proposed that vital food and medicine relief aid for Yemen be shipped through the country's Jizan port on the Red Sea to avoid Yemen's rebel-controlled Hodeida port.

Dr Abdullah al-Rabeeah, head of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, said Huthi rebel militia are holding up relief materials in Hodeidah, preventing them from getting to Yemenis suffering after three years of war.

Instead, he said, they are mainly letting through building materials, cars and trucks. When they do allow a cargo of food or medical supplies through, he said the militia controlling the port are charging relief agencies as much as $100,000 to offload a vessel.

Jizan, located about 260 kilometers (160 miles) north of Hodeidah, "is far closer to Saada and the north (of Yemen) than Hodeidah," Rabeeah told journalists in Washington.

"Although we would like to see Hodeidah to full capacity, until that happens we should use the maximum available ports, whether they are from Yemen, from Saudi Arabia, or land ports."

On Tuesday a coalition spokesman said that 15 cargo ships carrying food and fuel and authorised by the coalition to enter the port were still waiting to dock due to stalling by the rebels.

Putting the shipments through a Saudi port like Jizan would give Riyadh more control over the flow of aid to Yemen.

That could spur distrust among aid agencies who blame Saudi bombing of Yemen for much of the humanitarian challenge in the country.

Yemen is  entering its fourth year of fighting between the Huthi rebels who control the capital and a Saudi-led coalition.

Millions of Yemenis have been displaced by the fighting which has pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine.

Amid criticisms that the Saudi-led coalition are guilty of indiscriminate bombing of Yemen targets, hitting schools and hospitals as well as Huthi military targets, Rabeeah acknowledged that "mistakes are made."

However, he said the coalition is now honoring a total of 43,000 "non-strike-zones" identified by United Nations organizations and non-governmental relief groups.

"We have worked very closely with our humanitarian agencies and also with the coalition forces to ensure that civilian targets, schools and hospitals, are well-protected by non-strike zones."

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