Iran plane barred, aid which was on ship offloaded in Djibouti

‘The ship will be completely unloaded and reloaded onto other vessels, everything is transparent’

19:44 May 23, 2015

Tehran, Addis Ababa: An Iranian Red Crescent plane carrying 20 tonnes of food for war-torn Yemen was prevented from landing in Djibouti, where the UN has a relief hub, official media said on Saturday.

“Despite coordination with the United Nations and the World Food Programme, the plane was not granted permission to land in Djibouti,” the state run IRNA news agency said quoting a Red Crescent official.

The unnamed official said the plane was now in Shabahar, in southeastern Iran, awaiting “the authorisation of the foreign affairs ministry” of Djibouti.

An Iranian boat carrying 2,500 tonnes of aid for Yemen docked late Friday in the Horn of Africa port of Djibouti.

The cargo had been handed over to the WFP in Djibouti and was currently being offloaded, WFP spokeswoman Abeer Etefa said on Saturday.

“The ship carries 2,500 tonnes of humanitarian aid and that includes mainly rice and wheat flour, as well as medicine, water, tents and blankets,” she said.

The Red Crescent official told IRNA the vessel was being offloaded in Djibouti.

“The cargo has been handed over to WFP in Djibouti and is currently being offloaded,” said Etefa.

Djiboutian authorities said the Iranian cargo ship arrived late on Friday night in the Gulf of Aden port.

“The ship will be completely unloaded and reloaded onto other vessels, everything is transparent,” Djibouti port authority chief Abu Baker Hadi said.

The ship had initially been heading for the Yemeni port of Hodeida but had to change course after warnings from the United States and the Saudi-led coalition that has been pounding the Al Houthi militia in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of arming the Al Houthis, but Tehran denies the charge and says it is helping in Yemen by opposing air strikes and providing aid.

In April Saudi warplanes prevented an Iranian plane, which Tehran said carried aid for Yemen, from landing in the rebel-held capital Sana’a.

The Saudi-led coalition has waged an air war against the Al Houthis since March 26 in an effort to restore the authority of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has fled to Riyadh after the rebels overran most of the country.

On the ground, Saudi-led warplanes launched a fresh wave of air strikes across Yemen on Saturday targeting the Al Houthis as fighting raged in the south of the country, witnesses said.

The air raids pounded arms depots under the control of the Al Houthis in the locality of Ghula, in Omran province north of Sana’a, residents said.

They followed similar bombardments of weapons storage facilities in the capital that sparked deadly explosions.

At Hajja in the north of the country, a gathering of Al Houthis was struck, killing at least 12 of the militiamen, witnesses reported.

Air strikes also attacked rebel positions in the central region of Dhamar, officials there said.

In Southern Yemen, warplanes targeted rebels locked in combat with tribesmen in Ataq, the capital of Shabwa province, military officials said.

The fighting killed at least 28 people, including 17 Al Houthis and 11 tribesmen, the sources said.