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India to airlift nationals from Yemen, sending ship

March 29
23:23 2015

New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram, March 29 India said on Sunday that it would airlift its nationals from unrest-hit Yemen and is also sending a large ship to the Yemeni capital as Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition warplanes continued airstrikes against the Shia Houthi rebels for the fourth consecutive day.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted: “Today we got permission to fly from Sanaa for three hours a day. We will use this slot for evacuating our citizens every day. In addition, we are sending a ship with a capacity of 1,500 passengers.”

On Saturday, 80 Indian nationals were evacuated from Yemen by air to Djibouti. They flew by Yemenia Airways to Djibouti where the Indian mission was to assist in their journey home, the external affairs ministry tweeted.

There are around 3,500-4,000 Indian nationals currently in Yemen.

Sushma Swaraj has also urged the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to persuade Saudi Arabia to lift the ban on flying through its air space to help stranded Indians in Yemen fly home, said a Kerala minister.

Diaspora Minister K.C. Joseph told IANS that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was told this when he had a talk with Sushma Swaraj.

“We are told that things have calmed down a bit and yesterday (Saturday) the airport was opened for a few hours. A flight carrying 90 Indians, including 15 Kerala nurses, has departed from there. The Kerala nurses will arrive from Doha (Qatar) tomorrow (Monday) morning at Kochi airport,” he said.

“We are in touch with the Indian embassy officials in Yemen and they have said that every day the airport will be kept open for a few hours.

“In order to make use of that, we have to get permission from Saudi Arabia to use their air space for which India has got in touch with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to prevail upon Saudi Arabia. Once we get that permission, India will send aircraft to evacuate our people,” added Joseph.

There are no exact figures of the number of Indians, including Keralites, who are waiting to fly out from troubled Yemen.

Both the Kerala and central governments are in touch with the Indian embassy and have asked them to ensure that if people are able to produce any document to show that they are Indians, they should be given an exit permit from Yemen.

The 22-nation Arab League on Sunday said Saudi Arabia-led airstrikes in Yemen will continue until Shia rebels “withdraw and surrender their weapons”.

Saudi Arabia and fellow GCC member states launched airstrikes on Houthi positions in Yemen on Thursday, a move condemned by Iran but supported by the United States, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco.

Yemen’s President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, as the Houthis advanced on his base in Aden in the south of the country.

Speaking at the Arab League summit on Saturday, Hadi accused Iran of being behind the Houthi offensive. Iran has called the attacks on the Houthis a “dangerous step.”

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