Medical flights to start from Yemen's Sanaa in diplomatic breakthrough

DUBAI, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Flights carrying patients in need of urgent medical attention will begin to fly from the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Monday, aid and diplomatic sources said, a long-sought confidence-building measure in diplomatic efforts to end the five-year war.

The United Nations and World Health Organization will supervise patient transfers and flights from the capital, the sources said. They did not say where the flights were expected to land.

Yemen has been mired in almost five years of conflict since the Iran-aligned Houthis ousted the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi from Sanaa in late 2014. A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in 2015 to try to restore Hadi.

Although the Houthis control Sanaa airport, access is restricted by the coalition, which controls the air space.

The United Nations has been trying to re-launch political negotiations to end the war. Separately, Riyadh has been holding informal talks with the Houthis since late September about de-escalation.

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A diplomatic source said around 60 patients are expected to leave on flights this week.

Aid organization the Norwegian Refugee council said many more Yemenis were still waiting to get the healthcare they need.

“There is no justification for punishing very sick civilians by blocking them from accessing medical treatment.” (Reporting by Lisa Barrington Editing by Peter Graff)

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