Houthi rebels on Tuesday denied accusations by the World Food Program (WFP) of stealing humanitarian aid in war-torn Yemen.
In a statement, Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, head of the so-called Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said his group was “surprised” by the WFP allegations.
"We were surprised by the statement of the WFP Executive Director, which included threats to stop supplying food for large numbers of needy people in Yemen,” read the statement cited by the Houthis-linked Al-Masirah website.
He said the WFP "didn't communicate" with the group regarding the alleged theft of aid, adding that "exporting this to the media is considered as a major deviation in the work of the program".
On Monday, the WFP said it had collected evidence showing Houthi gunmen diverted food shipments sent to ease the humanitarian crisis in Yemen to areas under their control.
“This conduct amounts to the stealing of food from the mouths of hungry people,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said in a statement.
“At a time when children are dying in Yemen because they haven’t enough food to eat, that is an outrage. This criminal behavior must stop immediately.”
WFP is currently working to expand food aid operations to nearly 12 million hungry people in Yemen, the statement said.
Yemen plunged into civil war in 2014 when Shia Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital, Sanaa, forcing the government to flee to Saudi Arabia.
A year later, Saudi Arabia and several Arab allies launched a massive air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi military gains.
The Saudi-led campaign in Yemen has devastated the country's infrastructure, including its health and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe it as one of the worst humanitarian disasters in modern times.
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