By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - In a rare signal of disagreement with close ally Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump urged the kingdom Wednesday to immediately lift its embargo of Yemen, citing the impoverished nation's humanitarian crisis.
"I have directed officials in my Administration to call the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to request that they completely allow food, fuel, water, and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it," Trump said in a brief statement. "This must be done for humanitarian reasons immediately."
At least 234 people were killed in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, in the past four days in clashes between Shia Houthi rebels and forces loyal to slain former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was killed Monday, an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) official said Tuesday.
The violence is compounding an already dire humanitarian situation in the country where a Saudi blockade prompted by a Houthi missile strike targeting Riyadh has hindered attempts to deliver aid, including food and medical supplies, to the impoverished nation.
More than 960,000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported in war-torn Yemen since April 27, according to the World Health Organization. It said last month it recorded a total of 962,536 suspected cases of the disease throughout Yemen.
Over the same period, it documented 2,219 cholera-related deaths in 22 out of Yemen’s 23 provinces.
Saudi Arabia partially lifted its blockade last month under heavy international pressure. But international aid organizations have continued to voice objections that the Saudi effort is thwarting aid delivery in the war-torn nation.
Yemen has been dogged by violence since 2014, when Houthi rebels -- fighting alongside Saleh loyalists -- overran much of the country, including Sanaa.
The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.