Yemen’s national airline flew its first commercial flight from the capital Sanaa since 2016, bolstering expectations that a United Nations-brokered cease-fire may serve as a stepping stone to a permanent peace that will better the lives of desperate Yemenis.
Hundreds of Yemenis, including patients who had been waiting years for medical care, filed through security checks at the airport’s terminal, which had been abandoned since 2015, eager and relieved to be allowed to fly.
“This expedition has been three years in the making. We were unable to transport my father to Aden by land due to his health. Thank God, relief has arrived “Ismail al-Wazan stated this before boarding a flight to Amman with his wheelchair-bound father.
Water cannons drenched the runway as the first Yemenia flight arrived empty in Sanaa from Aden, where the carrier had been operating pretty routinely. The tourists were subsequently transported to Amman, Jordan’s capital.
A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis for seven years, putting Middle East security at jeopardy.
After the Houthis deposed Yemen’s internationally recognized government the previous year, the coalition participated in the civil conflict in 2015.
The two-month cease-fire began on April 2 and has generally held, but the restart of select flights agreed upon under the agreement was halted when the Saudi-backed administration required that all passengers departing Sanaa have passports approved by the government.
Faced with international pressure, it decided last week to allow holders of Houthi-issued passports to travel outside Yemen.
The United Nations is requesting that the statewide ceasefire, which has been in effect since 2016, be extended in order to allow for broader discussions to resolve the conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people and created a humanitarian catastrophe.
The cease-fire includes a pause to offensive military actions, the opening of Houthi-controlled ports to fuel imports, and the cancellation of several flights from Sanaa. Separate negotiations on restoring roads in the hotly contested Taiz area would be facilitated by the flights.
The reopening of Sanaa airport was praised by the United Nations and the United States.
“Yemen is experiencing its calmest moment since the conflict started, and these flights represent a vital step in further enhancing the lives and prospects for the Yemeni people,” White House National Security Council spokesman Adrienne Watson said.
The Norwegian Refugee Council, which has been involved in humanitarian efforts in Yemen, described the first commercial flight from Sanaa as “a stepping stone” toward Yemen’s long-term stability.
Sanaa’s next flight is scheduled for next Wednesday.