First UN medical flight takes Yemeni patients out of Sanaa airport

First UN medical flight takes Yemeni patients out of Sanaa airport
Patients, with chronic diseases which cannot be treated inside Yemen, will be airlifted by the UN chartered flights from Sanaa airport to hospitals in Cairo and Amman. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 03 February 2020

First UN medical flight takes Yemeni patients out of Sanaa airport

First UN medical flight takes Yemeni patients out of Sanaa airport
  • Patients were airlifted by UN chartered flights from Sanaa airport to hospitals in Jordan
  • These mercy flights come as part of humanitarian relief efforts

The first United Nations medical flight from Yemen left the Houthi-held capital of Sanaa on Monday, with seven patients and their families bound for Jordan where they will receive treatment.

“There will be patients who are suffering from conditions and diseases that can't be treated here in Yemen. They will be taken to Jordan,” UN resident coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande told reporters.

Flights to airlift patients from the Houthi-held Sanaa airport for treatment abroad began on Monday at 4:30 p.m. local time after weeks of discussions, diplomatic sources close to the matter told Arab News.

The UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths arrived in the capital on Sunday to facilitate the humanitarian “medical air bridge”, Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV reported.

Patients will be airlifted by World Health Organization (WHO) chartered flights, in cooperation with the Saudi-led Arab coalition, from Sanaa airport and taken to hospitals in Cairo and Amman.

These mercy flights come as part of “humanitarian relief efforts, and in support of the brethren Yemeni people to alleviate suffering” of patients with difficult illnesses, coalition spokesperson Colonel Turki Al-Maliki said last week.

“This humane step aims to alleviate suffering of citizens who cannot afford the hardship of travel by land to the Republic’s other ports, after the Houthis refused the government’s repeated initiative to operate Sanaa airport for domestic flights,” Yemen’s foreign ministry said in a release carried by the Riyadh-based Saba.

The Houthi-appointed medical bridge committee, Mutahar Derweesh, said that WHO had initially agreed to transport 30 patients in the first flight out of the 32,000 people that were registered on the medical evacuation lists. However, a statement released on Sunday by the Houthis stated that the number of patients that would be transported was decreased to seven. 

“I think it’s an important step, especially that it has been in discussion for a while now. I just hope it will not be abused by the Houthis,” Baraa Shiban, consultant to the Yemeni embassy in London told Arab News.

Shiban said that although this showed hope for future progress in resolving the conflict, he remained skeptical.

“I hardly see an end in sight, especially with the latest escalation,” he said.

Last week saw a drastic escalation in fighting between the warring sides in Yemen, killing and wounding hundreds of people.

The sudden spike in violence across long-stalemated front lines threatened to exacerbate the five-year conflict and complicate indirect peace talks.

Ibrahim Jalal, a Yemeni non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, also praised the decision as an “important humanitarian step to alleviate the suffering of Yemeni civilians.”

“The UN, in cooperation with humanitarian organisations and relevant stakeholders, should seek to increase the frequency of flights and seats allocated to meet basic medical demands,” he said.

There has been a blockade in place on commercial navigation to and from Sanaa airport since early August 2016, allowing only for UN and humanitarian groups’ flights.

The only commercially operated airports in Yemen are in the south in the interim-capital Aden and Seyoun in Hadramout, where the airports provide limited flights abroad.

“This reactivation is a step in the right direction and, if utilised well, could be one of the significant confidences building measures before the resumption of comprehensive peace talks,” Jalal said.

Last month, the UN envoy resumed a new round of regional talks to revive stalled peace talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthi militias. He discussed confidence-building measures to implement the Stockholm Agreement, signed in December 2018.  


Swedish-Iranian scientist may face imminent execution, say rights groups

Updated 46 min 59 sec ago

Swedish-Iranian scientist may face imminent execution, say rights groups

Swedish-Iranian scientist may face imminent execution, say rights groups
  • Djalali was arrested in Iran in 2016 and later convicted of espionage
  • Iran's Supreme Court in 2017 upheld the death sentence

DUBAI: Swedish-Iranian scientist Ahmadreza Djalali, sentenced to death in Iran on espionage charges, may face imminent execution, rights groups said on Tuesday.
"On 1 December, a judge said Ahmadreza was to be transferred to Rajai Shahr prison TODAY to proceed with his imminent execution," Amnesty International said on Twitter.
"His lawyer was informed that Ahmadreza would be transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison ... today (Tuesday, Dec. 1)," Iran Human Rights said in a statement, quoting his wife Vida Mehrannia.
There was no official Iranian reaction to the reports.
Sweden's foreign minister said last week she had spoken to her Iranian counterpart after reports Iran may soon carry out Djalali's death sentence.
Djalali, a medical doctor and lecturer at the Karolinska Institute in the Swedish capital Stockholm, was arrested in Iran in 2016 and later convicted of espionage, having been accused of providing information to Israel to help it assassinate several senior nuclear scientists. Iran's Supreme Court in 2017 upheld the death sentence.
Rights activists have accused Iran of arresting a number of dual nationals to try to win concessions from other countries. Tehran has regularly dismissed the accusation. (Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Alex Richardson)