First commercial flight leaves to Cairo from Sanaa
A Yemeni aircraft left the Houthi-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.
The office of the United Nations special envoy for Yemen told AFP there were 77 people on board the Yemenia flight from Sanaa airport, which has been closed to commercial flights for nearly six years.
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 have faltered.
The six previous flights had all been to the Jordanian capital Amman.
Yemen has been gripped by conflict since the Iran-backed Houthis overran Sanaa in 2014, triggering intervention from the Arab Coalition in support of the internationally recognized 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 Sanaa has been largely halted, but there have been exemptions for aid flights that are a key lifeline for the population.
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 lifesaving 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.