Tensions have escalated between Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Houthi rebels as humanitarian flights to Yemen were grounded and ships ordered to leave, resulting in immediate price hikes on the streets of the capital, Sanaa.
The cancellations came amid concerns the already dire humanitarian situation could be exacerbated and that Yemen appeared to be heading into total isolation from the outside world.
A United Nations official said its flights were cancelled and the world body was seeking “to resolve the issue as soon as possible”.
Saudi Arabia on Sunday intensified its blockade on Yemen, closing down all traffic to Yemen’s air and sea ports and shutting land crossings. It said the closure will take into consideration “the continuation of the entry and exit of humanitarian supplies and crews”.
The Saudi-led coalition called on all Yemenis and humanitarian missions in Houthi-held territories to avoid combat operations. There was no sign that UN missions were evacuating the northern region.
Yemen, a country of 26 million, was already on its knees from two years of war that began after Shiite Houthi rebels forced the internationally recognised government to flee and seek support from neighbouring Gulf countries.
In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition began what turned into a devastating war that has killed thousands, displaced millions and left the country in vicious cycles of deadly epidemics.
The blockade resulted in nearby Djibouti becoming the major transit point for humanitarian flights to Yemen. Before departing the tiny country in the Horn of Africa, UN agencies obtain permits from the coalition.
But with the latest measures, flights were not given clearance to leave Djibouti, according to the Doctors Without Borders relief agency.
The latest tension comes after Houthis fired a ballistic missile at the international airport in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The Saudis called it an “act of war” by Iran through their alleged proxy the Houthis.
Houthi-linked army spokesman Colonel Aziz Rashed told reporters in the Yemeni capital that Houthis will continue to target Saudi and UAE airports, warning travellers and travel agencies to stay away from them as they are considered “legitimate targets”.
Col Rashed claimed his military experts could develop missiles with ranges exceeding 1,500 kilometres (932 miles).