Warring Parties in Yemen Fail to Operate First Flight as Part of Ramadan Truce

In the first nationwide truce since 2016, the two sides agreed to operate two commercial flights a week to and from Sana'a to Jordan and Egypt, the first such exception to the Saudis' chokehold blockade of rebel-held Yemen

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Yemen's capital Sana'a in February.
Yemen's capital Sana'a in February.Credit: Abulsalam Sharhan /AP

Yemen’s warring parties traded blame on Sunday after failing to operate the first commercial flight in six years from the rebel-held capital of Sana'a in a blow to an already fragile Ramadan truce.

The flight destined for Amman had been planned as part of a UN-brokered, 60-day truce agreement that Yemen's government-in-exile and the Houthi rebels struck earlier this month, the first nationwide truce reached since 2016.

The agreement, which went into effect on April 2, came amid concerted international efforts to temporarily halt fighting between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition, which in addition to the coalition's blockade, has choked Yemen to the brink of famine.

As part of the truce, the two sides agreed to operate two commercial flights a week to and from Sana'a to Jordan and Egypt, the first such exception to the Saudi blockade.

However, both sides failed to operate the first flight more than three weeks since the truce took effect.

The Houthis accused the Saudi-led coalition of failing to issue needed permits for the flight.

Moammar al-Iryani, information minister of the internationally recognized government, said the Houthis did not adhere to the agreement by providing passengers with passports issued by the rebels.

He said the government allowed the travel of 104 passengers on the Sanaa-Amman flight but the Houthis insisted on adding 60 more passengers “with unreliable passports.” The internationally recognized government announced in March 2017 that it doesn’t recognize documents issued by the rebels.

A spokesman for the Houthis did not respond to a request for comment.

Hans Grundberg, the UN special envoy for Yemen, urged both sides to “work constructively” with the UN to address the challenges that delayed the flight.

“The Truce is meant to benefit civilians including through reducing violence, making fuel available, and improving their freedom of movement to, from and within their country,” he said on Twitter. He did not elaborate.

Along with the flights, the truce also included allowing 18 vessels carrying fuel into the port of Hodeida, which is controlled by the Houthis.

The sides have also yet to convene on a reopening of roads around Taiz and other provinces as part of the truce. The government accused the Houthis of delaying the meeting as they did not send their delegation’s members to the UN envoy’s office where the meeting was to be held.

The truce has resulted in a subsiding of ground and air fighting and the rebels have stopped their cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, another pillar of the coalition working to depose the Iran-backed Houthis.

Both sides, however, have reported almost daily violations of the cease-fire, especially around the government-held central city of Marib, which the Houthis have attempted to seize for over a year.

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