White House applauds decision to ease Saudi blockade in Yemen

Workers unload aid shipment from a plane at the Sanaa airport Yemen

Saudi Arabia tightened a blockade on Yemen earlier this month after Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the country fired a rocket deep into the conservative Sunni Muslim country. The blockade intensified after Saudi authorities intercepted a long-range missile, which they said had Iranian markings, near Riyadh airport.

The Huthi government on Tuesday announced the country's main worldwide airport was fully functional again a week after a Saudi-led air strike destroyed the facility's navigation system.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA also said on Friday saying that supplies of petrol and diesel are expected to run out in the coming week and the largest fuel importing companies will no longer be able to supply the consumer market.

The Saudi-led coalition's blockade of Yemen, which has cut off food imports to a population where 7 million people are on the brink of starvation, is "illegal collective punishment" of civilians, a prominent aid official said on Thursday.

His comments came shortly before the Saudi-led military coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen announced it would reopen Sanaa airport and the port of Hodeida on Thursday for urgent humanitarian aid and United Nations aircraft. "If that were to happen that would be a very welcome and critically important development".

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United Nations officials say Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, is facing the world's worst cholera outbreak, near starvation conditions in some parts and a severe breakdown of the healthcare system.

The Arab Coalition in Yemen announced on Friday that 42 permits were issued for ships and relief aircrafts.

"Humanitarian relief only provides a small portion of the essential goods needed in Yemen - commercial supplies are critical to feed the population and keep basic services running", it said. The two ports have served as the only lifeline for northern Yemen, where most of the country's 27 million people live. More than 2,200 people have died.

The United Nations says some 7 million Yemenis are on the brink of starvation and 945,000 have been infected since April with cholera.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says Yemen is highly dependent on imported wheat for its basic needs.

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