The first boat carrying medical aid to Yemen since a Saudi-led bombing campaign against rebels began last month has arrived in the southern port city of Aden, according to Doctors Without Borders.
The international humanitarian group's head of mission in Yemen, Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, said the ship carried some 2.5 tons of supplies from Djibouti for its hospital in Aden.
The group is concerned about how it will transport the supplies and wounded people given the chaos in Aden's streets, where Houthi rebels are battling forces loyal to President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, she added.
Street fighting intensified overnight around the hospital and is continuing, Ingres said. Roads have been blocked off and water, electricity and fuel shortages are rampant.
Meanwhile, the United States is speeding up the delivery of weapons to the Saudi-led coalition launching airstrikes against Shia rebels in Yemen and is committed to defending Saudi Arabia, a senior American diplomat said.
Speaking Tuesday in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken blamed the violence in Yemen on the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, saying that they have wrecked the country's economy and institutions and created instability that Al-Qaeda seeks to exploit. The Houthis’ opponents, which include Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, accuse the group of being backed by Iran, a charge they deny.
“We have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination and planning cell in the Saudi operations center,” Blinken said in a statement to reporters after meeting with Saudi royals and Hadi, who fled his country due to Houthi advances and is currently in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-led air campaign supporting Hadi, which began on March 25, has so far failed to stop the Houthis’ advance on Aden, Yemen's second-largest city, which was declared the provisional capital by Hadi before he fled the country for Saudi Arabia as the rebels closed in two weeks ago.
The World Health Organization warned Tuesday of an unfolding humanitarian crisis, saying at least 560 people, including dozens of children, have been killed, mostly in the air campaign and ground battles. The aid group said that over 1,700 people have been wounded and another 100,000 have fled their homes as fighting has intensified over the past three weeks.
Tons of desperately needed medical supplies await clearance to be flown into Yemen, including a Red Cross shipment that has been held up by a Saudi-imposed air blockade.
Late Tuesday, the group said a cargo plane with 17 tons of medical supplies was in Jordan awaiting the go-ahead from coalition forces to land in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, hopefully on Wednesday. Another 35 tons of supplies were also ready for shipment.
On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said witnesses told the group that Houthi forces fired into crowds of demonstrators in the cities of Taiz and Torba the day before the bombing campaign began, killing at least 7 people and wounding at least 83 more. The New York-based organization called on Houthi authorities to investigate the incidents.
“Yemen's spiraling conflict is causing a calamitous breakdown in law and order,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Security forces in control, whatever side they are on, have responsibilities to uphold and protect people's rights and to take action against their members who commit abuses.”
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press