CAIRO (AP) — The Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen said they were imposing severe restrictions starting Saturday on U.N. and other humanitarian flights arriving in the capital, Sanaa.
The Houthi-run Civil Aviation Authority said no humanitarian flights would land in Sanaa between March 25-30. It said in a statement they would allow such flights in Sanaa only on Fridays.
The Houthis said their decision was in response to an alleged barring of commercial flights to and from the Yemeni capital, and a ban of booking flights from Sanaa.
The United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Sanaa International Airport was partly reopened for commercial fights last year as part of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire deal between Yemen’s warring parties. The cease-fire expired in October when the two sides failed to reach a compromise to renew the truce.
The Houthi move comes amid an escalation in fighting in the central province of Marib, where the Houthi rebels in recent days attacked government-held areas.
The escalation comes after Iran and Saudi Arabia reached an agreement earlier this month to restore bilateral relations, reviving hopes of a political settlement to Yemen’s conflict, where the two regional powerhouses support opposing sides.
Yemen’s war erupted in 2014, when the Houthis seized Sanaa and forced the government into exile in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in March 2015 to try restoring the internationally recognized government to power.
The Houthi restrictions on humanitarian flights is likely to exaggerate the suffering of Yemenis in Houthi-held areas, including the capital.
Yemen’s conflict has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. More than 21 million people in Yemen, or two-thirds of the country’s population, need help and protection, according to the U.N.