First commercial flight in last six years takes off from Yemen’s Sanaa airport 

The implementation of one of the crucial elements of the UN-sponsored ceasefire agreement was widely welcomed by peace activists and is expected to boost the possibility of a lasting peace in Yemen

May 18, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Sanaa airport Yemen
(Photo: OSESGY/Ahmed Marii)

After six years, the first commercial flight took off from the Sanaa international airport in Yemen on Monday, May 16. The Yemeni plane carrying 126 passengers landed at Jordan’s Amman airport. 

Apart from people visiting their relatives abroad, many of the passengers had been unable to get adequate medical assistance in Yemen for years due to the war and the Saudi-led blockade.

The UN brokered a two-month ceasefire in Yemen in April. As per the ceasefire agreement, two incoming and two outgoing flights per week were allowed from the Sanaa international airport. 

However, a scheduled flight from the airport on April 24 was cancelled at the last moment due to the failure of both the parties to agree on who will issue the passports for the passengers.    

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which has imposed a comprehensive sea, air and land blockade of Yemen forcing the airport to close for operations for almost six years, does not recognize the Houthi-backed government in Sanaa.  

On the other hand, the Houthis do not consider the Saudi-backed government, now run by a newly appointed eight-member presidential council, as legitimate. 

In a report in the Yemeni news agency Saba on Tuesday, director general of the Sanaa international airport, Khaled al-Shayef, asked the UN to compensate the flights which could not be operated in the last two months. He also refuted the claims allegedly made by the “US-Saudi aggression” about the airport not being ready for flights as the reason for the delayed implementation of the agreement.   

During the ceasefire negotiations, the Houthis had insisted that lifting of the blockade is one of the central conditions for the ceasefire, apart from cessation of air strikes and withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.  

The successful conduct of the first international flight from Sanaa airport was welcomed by peace activists. The UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, called it a “moment of coming together to do more, to start repairing what was broken, and to follow through all the truce commitments.” 

Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK emphasized the significance of the event but noted that the war in Yemen will only end if Saudi Arabia stops getting support from the US and its allies. 

The war, which began in 2015 following the Saudi-led international coalition’s bombing of Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, has led to the century’s “worst humanitarian crisis” by the UN. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions have been forced into starvation due to the war.