Aid will reach Yemen when conditions right: Arab coalition

Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed Assiri, spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition forces, talks to the media at the Riyadh airbase on March 26, 2014 (AFP Photo/Fayez Nureldine)

Riyadh (AFP) - Aid will be allowed into strife-torn Yemen when conditions are right, the Saudi-led military coalition said Saturday after the Red Cross urged a 24-hour ceasefire to address "dire" conditions on the ground.

"The humanitarian operation is part of our job, part of our responsibility," Brigadier General Ahmed Assiri told reporters on the 10th day of coalition air strikes against Shiite Huthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen.

The operation has closed airports and restricted movement at seaports, hampering aid deliveries.

Hospitals treating the wounded are running short of medicines and the streets of the southern city of Aden are strewn with bodies, the International Committee of the Red Cross said, calling for "an immediate halt to the fighting".

It added that food stocks are running low and there are fuel and water shortages.

Assiri said aid "will come when we are able to set the conditions (so) that this aid will benefit the population".

He said the coalition requires that aid delivery does not interfere with the military operation, that aid workers are not put at risk, and that supplies do not fall into the wrong hands.

"We don't want to supply the militias," Assiri said.

The coalition aims to defeat the Huthi rebels who seized power in the capital Sanaa in February, and who Riyadh feared would take over the entire country and shift it into the orbit of Shiite Iran, Sunni Saudi Arabia's regional rival.

The Huthis, allied with army units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been fighting forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled to the Saudi capital Riyadh late last month from Aden.

The air strikes and fighting on the ground have made civilians very vulnerable, the aid group Action Against Hunger said on Saturday.

"There are now tens of thousands of people fleeing the conflict zones who find themselves on the road or taking refuge in villages," the Paris-based group said in a statement.

Russia on Saturday presented a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council calling for a humanitarian pause in the air campaign to allow the evacuation of foreigners.

Assiri said Russia, India, Indonesia, Algeria and Pakistan have aready taken out their citizens.

China, Djibouti, Egypt and Sudan, along with two aid groups, are scheduled to conduct evacuations as soon as Sunday while requests from others including Canada, Germany and Iraq are being processed, he said.