Saudi-led forces close access to Yemen

Reuters

Posted at Nov 06 2017 11:10 PM

A still image taken from a video distributed by Yemen's pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station on November 5, 2017, shows what it says was the launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Riyadh's King Khaled Airport on Saturday. Houthi Military Media Unit via Reuters

DUBAI - A Saudi-led military coalition will temporarily close all air, land and sea ports to Yemen to stem the flow of arms to Houthi rebels from Iran, it said in a statement on Monday carried by the state news agency SPA.

The move, which follows the interception of a missile fired towards Riyadh on Saturday, is likely to further worsen Yemen's humanitarian crisis, which has pushed some seven million to the brink of famine and left more than half a million infected with cholera, according to the United Nations.

"The Coalition Forces Command decided to temporarily close all Yemeni air, sea and land ports," the statement on SPA said, adding that aid workers and humanitarian supplies would continue to be able to access and exit Yemen.

The United Nations and international aid organisations have repeatedly criticised the coalition in the past for blocking aid access, especially to the north, which is held by the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels battling the Saudi-led coalition.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies have made clear they view Iran as mainly responsible for the Yemen conflict, in which more than 10,000 people have been killed in the past two years.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on his Twitter account on Monday that his country reserved the right to respond to what he called Iran's "hostile actions". Bahrain's Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa also tweeted that Iran was the real danger to the region.

On Sunday the coalition accused the Houthis of "dangerous escalation (which) came because of Iranian support" after Saudi air defences intercepted the ballistic missile heading towards Riyadh. It was brought down near Riyadh airport without causing any casualties.

"WAR CRIMES"

Iran rejected the criticism as "destructive and provocative".

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi "referred to the war crimes and aggression of the Saudis during the past years and said the reaction by Yemenis is an independent reaction ... and not a move caused by another country's action or incitement", a ministry statement said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has also blamed Iran for Saturday's missile attack, but the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards rejected that view as "slanders".

The Saudi-led coalition has been targeting the Houthis since they seized parts of Yemen in 2015, including the capital Sanaa, forcing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee and seek help from neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

On Sunday a suicide car bomber blew himself up at a security checkpoint in the southern port city of Aden, killing 15 people and wounding at least 20, residents and a security official said. Aden is the interim headquarters of Yemen's internationally-recognised government.