Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdulaziz increased his country’s aid commitment to Yemen to over 500 million US dollars on Wednesday as a humanitarian ceasefire between the Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries and Houthi rebels held in Yemen despite reported violations.
“We announce that we are setting aside 1 billion riyals for aid and humanitarian operations . . . in addition to the more than 1 billion riyals [274 million dollars] we have already pledged,” the monarch said in remarks carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
Saudi Arabia, which is spearheading a 10-country-strong military coalition against Houthi positions in Yemen, proposed a five-day humanitarian truce, which came into effect on Tuesday evening to secure delivery of aid to civilians in Yemen caught up in the fighting.
Since the Houthis launched a coup in the country in February, the movement’s militias have clashed with forces loyal to Yemen’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
International aid agencies have warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen since the crisis in the country erupted. Severe shortages in food, water, fuel, and medical supplies have been reported.
An Iranian-flagged ship that Tehran claims is carrying humanitarian aid intended for Yemen left the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas on Monday, raising the likelihood of a confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of backing the Houthi rebels, who are the target of the aerial campaign launched by the Kingdom and its allies on March 26 with the aim of restoring to power legitimate and internationally recognized President Hadi.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin said his government did not give authorization to the Iranian vessel to enter Yemen’s territorial waters.
Yassin, who has joined Hadi’s government-in-exile in Saudi Arabia, said that dozens of Iranian nationals and foreign activists aboard the vessel do not have visas to allow them to enter Yemen.
To ensure no weapons are smuggled into Yemen the Saudi-led coalition has set up a humanitarian hub in Djibouti where aid-laden vessels pass through for inspection on their way to the war-torn country.
“That the Iranian ship has moved towards Yemen without the permission of the Yemeni government or the coalition members is a clear provocation of the international community,” Yassin said.
“The identity of those on board the ship must be known as well as what their role is and whether or not they will all return,” he added.
Meanwhile, King Salman laid the foundation stone for the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Works that aims to help distressed communities. The Center will begin its work by organizing the delivery of aid to the Yemeni people.
At the opening ceremony in Riyadh, King Salman said: “The center will be dedicated for relief and humanitarian work . . . to help relieve communities that suffer from disasters and ease their suffering.”
The center would be run in line with humanitarian motives only, emphasized the monarch.