The United Nations on Tuesday demanded that Saudi Arabia drop its newly tightened blockade on Yemen’s borders.
Saudi Arabia shut down Yemen’s airports, land borders and sea ports on Monday following an attempted ballistic missile attack on an international airport servicing Saudi capital Riyadh. Saudi Arabia said the complete shutdown was a temporary measure but the blockade was slammed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), DW reported.
“The situation is catastrophic in Yemen, it is the worst food crisis we are looking at today, seven million people are on the brink of famine, millions of people being kept alive by our humanitarian operations,” a spokesman for the office, Jens Laerke, told reporters in Geneva.
“If these channels, these lifelines, are not kept open it is catastrophic for people who are already in what we have already called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” Laerke said.
Laerke said fuel prices had immediately jumped up 60% and cooking gas prices doubled.
The UN rights office said it would study whether the blockade constituted an unlawful collective punishment, and said it hoped the measures were short term.
The World Health Organization said the Saudi blockade would stymie its efforts to fight cholera in Yemen, where more than 900,000 people are infected and more than 2,100 people have died.
Human Rights Watch said “This unlawful attack is no justification for Saudi Arabia to exacerbate Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe by further restricting aid and access to the country.”
The UN said all of its humanitarian flights to Yemen had been grounded after they were refused clearance. Doctors Without Borders said its flight from Djibouti to the Yemeni capital Sanaa had also been canceled for the same reason.
***Hadi Under House Arrest
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reported that Saudi Arabia has barred Yemen’s fugitive president, along with his sons, ministers and military officials, from returning home for months.
The officials said the ban was prompted by enmity between Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi and the UAE, which is part of the US-backed Saudi-led coalition against Houthi rebels and has come to dominate southern Yemen, the portion of the country not under rebel control.
Hadi and much of his government have been in the Saudi capital Riyadh for most of the war.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the two main pillars of the coalition, which is ostensibly defending Hadi’s government and is battling Houthis.
The coalition has waged an air campaign against the rebels since 2015, and the UAE has a strong military presence in southern Yemen – but the Houthis still control the north.