Sana’a (GPA) – Yemeni forces launched a long-range ballistic missile at the King Khalid Airport in early November in retaliation for the Saudi-led war against Yemen. Days later, Saudi Arabia tightened their already-existing blockade. This impacts Yemeni life in a number of ways and puts millions of Yemenis on the brink of death.
Nearly 1,000 days ago, Saudi Arabia along with most of the Gulf Cooperation Council and backed by western allies launched a brutal war against Yemen to defeat a popular uprising and prop-up the Saudi puppet government of Mansur Hadi.
International observers estimate the death toll from Saudi airstrikes and military operations is about 5,000 but local estimates suggest that total is over 13,000.
The number of Yemenis killed by the ongoing siege is harder to calculate. Not long after beginning the war, the Saudi coalition imposed a land, sea, and air blockade — effectively turning Yemen into an open-air prison.
This siege and blockade is a deadly military tactic the Saudis use to beat Yemen into submission. Its devastating effects are not a coincidence but rather completely intentional.
The United States enforces this blockade with Navy ships. Asking the Saudis to lift the blockade is laughable when the US and western allies help enforce it themselves.
Aid, which was already severely restricted, is now nonexistent. The previous measures put seven million Yemenis on the brink of famine, made 17 million food insecure, and triggered a globally unprecedented cholera outbreak infecting nearly 1 million and killing over 3,000 since April.
The Saudi measures in early November increased this existing blockade by closing Yemen’s few remaining lifelines including the Aden airport, Hodeidah port, and various land routes. The siege also restricts the flow of movement, and the Sana’a airport has been closed to commercial travel for years. (Saudi airstrikes attacked the Sana’a airport’s communication equipment last week just to ensure aid cannot enter.)
People living in Sana’a say the once bustling capital has become a ghost town as the prices of available goods have skyrocketed.
- Fuel: People wait in long lines in hopes of filling their cars to get to work. Yemenis report parking their car in line and walking home, only to return the next day and wait. Sewage pumps require fuel to function so lack of fuel will cause cholera rates to spike again.
- Foodstuffs: Yemen imports nearly 80% of food so millions are expected to die if the siege continues.
- Medical supplies: The blockade impacts every medical issue possible from kidney dialysis to diabetes. Pregnant women cannot receive proper care. Without medical supplies, thousands if not millions could die.
- Salaries: The siege also impacts government salaries affecting teachers, doctors, nurses, sanitation workers. As a result, people like healthcare workers have to seek out alternative employment leading to a shortage of nurses and doctors.
- Flow of movement: Yemenis cannot leave the country — even for medical treatment — and aid workers or journalists may not enter.
Since tightening the blockade after November 4th, Riyadh has lifted the embargo on Yemen’s southern airport and ports. However, these areas currently fall under the control of Saudi-backed forces or Emirati allies which means aid still cannot enter areas it’s needed most.
Since heightening the blockade, Saudi authorities have blocked nearly 30 ships from delivering aid and goods including 300,000 metric tons of food and 192,000 metric tons of fuel.
The World Health Organization, World Food Program, and UNICEF all issued a joint appeal asking the Saudis to lift the blockade which threatens the already deteriorating humanitarian situation.
A confidential UN document obtained by the Intercept reveals that the international body admits Saudi Arabia is restricting the flow of humanitarian aid. The report also recognizes that Iran had no involvement transporting ballistic missiles into Yemen. This means that there is absolutely no justification for the ongoing blockade.
Despite this, the United Nations has done virtually nothing to actually stop the siege or war which would not be possible without the full support and encouragement of the United States and other western allies.
Indeed, the Saudis are taking a page directly out of Israel’s handbook.