According to Yemen’s airport administrator Khalid al-Shayyef, the flight by Yemenia, also known as Yemen Airways, departed from Sana’a International Airport at 8 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) and was bound for the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah.
He went on to say that the flight was the first of five that would transport Yemeni pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year for the annual Hajj rite, which every financially stable and physically healthy Muslim is obligated to perform at least once in their lives.
In addition to the Saturday’s flight, two more departures have been scheduled for Monday and Wednesday, while officials from Yemen’s popular Houthis resistance movement and Saudi authorities were working on scheduling two more flights, al-Shayyef noted as cited in the report.
Numerous Yemeni pilgrims use buses to Saudi Arabia or the southern port city of Aden, a difficult 12-hour journey due to checkpoints, where they can take a flight to the neighbouring nation.
Akram Mohamed Murshid, one of the pilgrims boarding the aircraft, stated, “We can no longer bear the burdens and hardships of travelling to Aden.”
I hope the roadblock breaks down and the airport stays open. I can’t really put into words how relieved and pleased we are right now, said Mohammad Askar, another traveller headed to Mecca.
Nearly 200 flights, according to Yemen’s Minister of Public Works and Roads Ghaleb Mutlaq, would be required to transport the 24,000 pilgrims on their highly spiritual journey.
“We consider what is happening today as a good gesture, so that airports, especially Sana’a airport, will be opened to Yemeni Travellers,” Najeeb al-Aji, Yemeni Minister of Guidance, Hajj and Umrah, told journalists.
In March 2015, Saudi Arabia began a ruthless war of aggression against Yemen with the support of some of its regional allies, such as the United Arab Emirates, and with the help of significant shipments of advanced weapons from the US and Western Europe.
The Western governments continued to provide Riyadh with political and logistical backing in their vain attempt to oust the former Saudi-installed administration from Yemen.
Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, the previous head of the Yemeni government, left his position as president in late 2014 and then fled to Riyadh because of a political dispute with Houthis. In the absence of a functioning government, the movement has been managing Yemen’s affairs.
Tens of thousands of Yemenis were also killed in the battle, which also changed the entire nation into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.