Red Cross gets approval from Saudi-led coalition for Yemen aid

GENEVA (Reuters) - The International Committee Red Cross hopes to bring vital medical supplies and aid workers into Yemen on Monday after receiving approval from the Saudi-led military coalition, an ICRC spokeswoman said. The aid agency has been negotiating for nearly a week to deliver life-saving supplies and equipment to Yemen, where the coalition has conducted 11 days of air strikes against Iran-backed Shi'ite Houthis. The coalition now controls the country's ports and air space. "We have received permission from the coalition for two planes now, one carrying supplies and one with staff," ICRC spokeswoman Sitara Jabeen told Reuters on Sunday. The ICRC hoped that the aircraft could land on Monday in the capital Sana'a, she said. However, it was still awaiting approval for an ICRC surgical team it plans to bring by boat into the southern city of Aden, where fighting remains intense. In Riyadh, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition said arrangements had been made for at least one Red Cross aid delivery on Sunday morning, but the ICRC had pulled out of the arrangement. "There was a trip fixed for them at 9 this morning ... They informed us, after the time was set, of a request to delay the flight," Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri told reporters, adding that this was because the company from which they had chartered the plane could not fly to Yemen. The coalition says it has set up a special coordination body for aid deliveries and asked NGOs and governments to work with it to ensure humanitarian aid can be brought into Yemen and foreign nationals can be evacuated safely. The ICRC deploys 300 aid workers, including foreigners, in Yemen, the Arab peninsula's poorest country. On Saturday it called for a 24-hour humanitarian pause in the conflict to allow aid to reach people cut off by air strikes and to save the lives of "streams of wounded". The United Nations said on Thursday that more than 500 people had been killed in two weeks of fighting in Yemen. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Angus McDowall in Riyadh; editing by Clelia Oziel)