Restart of flights from Sanaa to Amman postponed, Yemenia airline says

First commercial flight in six years from Yemen's rebel-held capital was scheduled to depart on Sunday

The airport in Sanaa has been closed to commercial traffic since August 2016. EPA
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The first commercial flight from Yemen's capital in six years had to be indefinitely postponed after claims that the Houthi rebels had tried to smuggle onboard members of Iran’s Islamic Republican Guard Corps and Lebanese Hezbollah.

Muammar Al Eryani, Yemen’s Information Minister, said the government had approved 104 passengers for the flight but the Houthis insisted on adding 60 more with “unreli­able passports”.

The rebels had tried to smug­gle members of Hezbollah and the IRGC on to the flight using “fake names and forged documents”, the official Saba news agency quot­ed him as saying.

The govern­ment and coalition accuse the groups of sending in military advisers and weapons experts to support the Houthi rebels.

The Saudi-led coalition in support of the internationally recognised government, which was removed by the Houthis in 2015, refused to give permission for the flight.

The coalition had agreed to allow Yeme­nia airline’s commercial opera­tions from Sanaa airport to Amman in Jordan under a UN-sponsored truce, lifting a flight ban imposed to prevent the smuggling of weapons to the insurgents.

Hours before the flight, the airline said on its Facebook page that “it has not yet received op­erating permits”, and expressed “deep regret to the travellers for not being allowed to operate” the long-awaited flight.

It said it hoped “all problems will be overcome in the near future”, without speci­fying a date.

A manager at the company told AFP that "the needed permission from the coalition didn't arrive". There was no immediate comment from the coalition.

UN special envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg called on the warring parties to work with his office “to find a solution that allows the flights to resume as planned”.

The renewable two-month truce that went into effect in early April "is meant to benefit civilians including through reducing violence, making fuel available, and improving their freedom of movement to, from and within their country", he tweeted.

The airport in Sanaa has been closed to commercial traffic since August 2016. Aid flights continue to land in Sanaa, although service has periodically halted.

Daily flights out of government-controlled Aden in the south and the central city of Seiyun operate domestically and connect Yemen to other countries in the region.

With reporting from agencies

Updated: April 25, 2022, 10:19 AM