Saudi Arabia says it will ease blockade of Yemen amid international outcry

Saudi Arabia says it will ease blockade of Yemen amid international outcry
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Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday that it will ease its weeks-old air and sea blockade of Yemen amid outcry from the United Nations and humanitarian groups. 

The Saudi-led coalition announced that it would reopen the port in Hudaydah to allow in humanitarian relief, and would begin allowing U.N. aircraft to use the airport in Sanaa, Yemen's capital city, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

The Saudis tightened a military blockade on Yemen earlier this month, completely shutting off ports and airports, after the Iran-backed Houthi rebel group fired a missile deep into Saudi Arabia before it was intercepted near the airport in Riyadh, the country's capital.

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Saudi and U.S. officials determined that the missile had been manufactured in Iran. 

But the blockade also made worse a growing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, cutting the country's citizens off from receiving key humanitarian aid, including medicine and food.

The heads of the World Food Program, UNICEF and the World Health Organization warned in a joint statement last week that the situation in Yemen had become increasingly dire, and urged the Saudi-led coalition to open the country up to humanitarian relief.

"All of the country’s ports – including those in areas held by the opposition – should be reopened without delay," the agency heads said. "This is the only way that UN-chartered ships can deliver the vital humanitarian cargo that the population needs to survive."

The blockade, according to the agencies, has put seven million people on the verge of famine.

Saudi Arabia began reopening some ports and airports last week. But the port at Hudaydah, Yemen's main entry point for humanitarian aid, remained shuttered.