A Yemenia Airways plane carrying 277 Yemeni pilgrims departs from Sanaa Airport to Saudi Arabia.

  • Yemen
    Yemeni pilgrims wait at the Sanaa International Airport to board a plane for Saudi Arabia (AFP)

The first commercial flight from Yemen's capital, Sanaa, to Saudi Arabia since 2016 took off carrying pilgrims on Saturday.

On Friday, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced it had decided to facilitate the arrival of Yemeni pilgrims from Sanaa Airport to King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.

A Yemenia Airways plane carrying 277 travelers departed at around 8 pm (1700 GMT), an official told AFP, seven years after Sanaa's international airport was blockaded by the Saudi-led coalition.

The flight is the first since Sanaa's airport was closed by the coalition blockade in August 2016. Two more flights will depart on Monday and Tuesday, officials confirmed.

The Sanaa government's Works Minister Ghaleb Mutlaq indicated that about 200 flights would be needed to accommodate the 24,000 people that he said wanted to travel, noting that tens of thousands of pilgrims had already left by land and incurred road risks.

"We consider what is happening today as a good gesture, so that airports, especially Sanaa airport, will be opened to Yemeni travelers," Najeeb Al-Aji, the Sanaa government's Minister of Guidance, Hajj and Umrah, told journalists.

The Minister highlighted that before the start of the aggression against Yemen, the number of flights flying from Sanaa Airport per day was approximately 50, at a rate of 5,000 passengers.

However, Al-Aji pointed to the dangers to which pilgrims were exposed during previous years as a result of their overland travel through unsafe and rugged roads.

He emphasized the interest of the revolutionary leadership and the Supreme Political Council in alleviating the suffering of the pilgrims and putting effort into securing their lives and property.

On his part, the Sanaa government's Transport Minister Abdul-Wahhab Al-Durra told the September 26.net news website that the launch of pilgrims' flights from Sanaa came with the follow-up of the president of the Supreme Political Council in Yemen, Mahdi Al-Mashat.

Al-Durra added that four flights were scheduled from Sanaa Airport to Jeddah, while 15 other flights were scheduled for pilgrims, returning via Sanaa International Airport.

It is noteworthy that in recent months, the Sultanate of Oman put efforts to stop the aggression against Yemen and lift the unlawful siege imposed on the country by mediating a peace deal between Sanaa and Riyadh.

In April, a Saudi delegation flew to Sanaa, the same week as a major prisoner swap that freed nearly 900 detainees.

However, due to Western obstruction, Saudi and Yemeni negotiators failed to agree on a new truce.

"We are all aware that the road to peace is going to be long and difficult," UN special envoy Hans Grundberg said at a forum in The Hague this week, noting "an uptick in public rhetoric threatening large-scale escalation."

Read more: Saudi Arabia restrains Yemeni pilgrims from completing their Hajj

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