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Nov 20, 6:01 AM EST

World Food Program chief in Yemen warns millions at risk, more deaths certain as blockade remains in place


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World Food Program chief in Yemen warns millions at risk, more deaths certain as blockade remains in place

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CAIRO (AP) -- The head of the World Food Program in Yemen said on Monday that millions of Yemenis face the risk of more deaths as aid deliveries cannot get to those in need because of the continuing blockade of the war-ravaged country by the Saudi-led coalition.

Speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from Sanaa, Stephen Anderson said it is "heartbreaking" that millions in Yemen depended on sustained access to humanitarian aid. Of a population of 26 million, some 17 million Yemenis do not know where their next meal is coming from and 7 million are totally dependent on food assistance.

Humanitarian flights to the northern, rebel-held parts of Yemen have been grounded amid the blockade imposed by the coalition in response to a rebel missile attack near the Saudi capital, Riyadh, earlier this month. The missile was struck down but it marked the closest that a rebel projectile had come to the kingdom's capital.

After widespread international criticism of its blockade, Saudi Arabia said last week it would reverse its closure of Yemen's sea ports and airports - though not those in the hands of the Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

On Sunday night, a coalition airstrike in the northern Yemeni province of Jawf killed 10 civilians, including four women and two children, according to security officials and tribal sources in the area.

The airstrike targeted a house amid intense fighting in the area between forces loyal to Yemen's coalition-backed and internationally recognized government, and the Iran-backed Houthis, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

There was no immediate word from the coalition on the airstrike or its intended target. The coalition, which began its war against the Houthis in 2015, claims the rebels often use civilians as human shields.

The civil war in Yemen, an impoverished Arab nation in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula, has killed at least 10,000 civilians since it broke out in 2014.

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Associated Press reporter Ahmed al-Haj in Sanaa, Yemen, contributed to this story.

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