First since 2016: Commercial flight leaves from rebel-held Yemen capital of Sanaa to Cairo

AFP , Ahram Online , Wednesday 1 Jun 2022

A Yemeni aircraft left the rebel-held capital Sanaa for Cairo Wednesday on the first commercial flight between the two cities since 2016, the latest gain from a two-month truce that is about to expire.

Yemen Airways
A Yemen Airways plane is prepared for departure as the first commercial flight at Sanaa airport, Yemen, Monday, May, 16, 2022. AP


The office of the United Nations special envoy for Yemen told AFP there were 77 people on board the Yemenia Airlines flight from Sanaa airport, which has been closed to commercial flights for nearly six years.

On Sunday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised Egypt’s decision to allow direct flights between Cairo and Yemen’s Sanaa in a phone call with Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry.

It is the seventh such flight since the UN-brokered truce went into effect on April 2, but the agreement expires on Thursday and talks on extending it has faltered.

The six previous flights had all been to the Jordanian capital Amman.

Yemen has been gripped by conflict since the rebels overran Sanaa in 2014, triggering a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the beleaguered government the following year.

On May 16, a Yemenia plane carrying 126 passengers, including critically ill hospital patients and their relatives, became the first commercial flight to leave Sanaa since August 2016.

Air traffic into the rebel-held capital has been largely halted by a Saudi-led blockade, but there have been exemptions for aid flights that are a key lifeline for the population.

Despite accusations of violations from both the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels, the truce has significantly reduced levels of violence.

The Houthis have said they were considering renewing the ceasefire amid UN efforts to extend the truce.

But on Tuesday, the United States warned the truce talks were in "trouble" as it pushed for an extension to help support millions of people at risk.

Talks on extending the ceasefire "haven't ended yet but seem to be in a bit of trouble," the US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said.

Aid agencies have urged Yemen's warring parties to extend the truce, saying it had "positive humanitarian impacts".

"As organisations working across Yemen, we have seen the positive humanitarian impacts of the truce," more than 30 aid agencies, including Save The Children, Oxfam and the Norwegian Refugee Council, said in a joint statement.

They said the reopening of Sanaa airport to commercial flights had allowed hundreds of patients in "critical need of life-saving medical treatment outside of the country" to finally receive it.

The war has killed more than 150,000 people and displaced millions, creating the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN.

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