'Nobel Women' laureates urge Saudis to end blockade on Yemen

A group of Nobel Peace Laureates on Monday urged the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen to end their blockade on the Arab world's poorest country that has deprived it of much-needed aid and squeezed it to the brink of famine.

The Nobel Women's Initiative said in a statement said that the blockade "rendered access to humanitarian assistance impossible for the people of Yemen," and "denies millions of vulnerable and innocent civilians access to food, fuel and medical supplies."

"It further aggravates what the United Nations has called the world's 'worst humanitarian crisis' to date," they wrote, where over 20 million people lack needed life-saving humanitarian assistance in what amounts to "collective punishment."

The Saudi-led coalition went to war against the rebels, known as Houthis, in March 2015 on behalf of Yemen's internationally recognized government. But the coalition has made little progress, and the rebels still control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.

The U.S.-backed coalition tightened a land, sea and air blockade Nov. 6 after a missile attack by rebels on the Saudi capital Riyadh. Saudi Arabia said Monday the coalition would lift the blockade.

The letter was signed by Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland, Rigoberta Menchú Tum of Guatemala, Jody Williams of the United States, Shirin Ebadi of Iran, Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen.

Over the past two years, the war in Yemen has killed more than 10,000 people and left over 3 million displaced amid the coalition's air campaign.