Saudi Arabia’s military forced an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid plane to redirect yesterday after it took off from the Yemeni capital Sanaa, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
The ICRC aid plane set-off from Sanaa airport at 13:00 (AST) but changed “course after take-off” and “headed to Djibouti”, Colonel Turki Al Maliki, Saudi-led coalition’s spokesperson said.
“The Coalition Forces communicated with the aircraft on the International Distress Frequency. The aircraft’s crew did not respond to the Coalition’s calls,” he added.
Commands were given to “redirect the aircraft away from the Operations zone to no avail”, Al Maliki continued. Saudi Arabia then directed the ICRC plane to land at the King Abdullah Regional Airport in Jazan, after one hour and 16 minutes.
According to the statement, the ICRC “jeopardised” air space and passenger safety, and travelled through airspace that violated Aviation Regulations. “The air space as well as safety of the (4) passenger were jeopardised. The Coalition reaffirms its actions were taken to guarantee the safety of air space, crew and humanitarian staffers who were on board.”
— Fatima Alasrar (@YemeniFatima) July 24, 2018
The ICRC has made no comment on the incident.
The Saudi-led coalition was invited to enter the Yemen civil war by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in March 2015. Its main goals were to neutralise threats posed by the Houthi group emanating from northern Yemen.
Three years on, civilians remain trapped in the middle of a crossfire, with dwindling supplies of basic amenities and a lack of access to sufficient water, sanitation and food. According to UN figures, 15,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
Last month, the ICRC pulled 71 international staff members out of Yemen because of security incidents and threats, relocating them to Djibouti. Some 400 ICRC staff remain in Yemen, including expatriate workers.