A hospital in north Yemen run by medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) was bombed in a Saudi-led air strike, wrecking the facility and lightly wounding two staff members, the group said on Tuesday.
A Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March to try to restore its government after its toppling by Iran-allied Houthi forces, but a mounting civilian death toll has alarmed human rights groups.
“Our hospital in the Heedan district of Saada governorate was hit several times. Fortunately, the first hit damaged the operations theater while it was empty and the staff were busy with people in the emergency room. They just had time to run off as another missile hit the maternity ward,” MSF country director Hassan Boucenine told Reuters by telephone from Yemen.
“It could be a mistake, but the fact of the matter is it’s a war crime. There’s no reason to target a hospital. We provided (the coalition) with all of our GPS coordinates about two weeks ago,” he said.
At least two staff members were hurt by flying debris, according to Boucenine.
The air raid occurred in north Yemen’s Saada province, a region controlled by Houthi forces. The state news agency Saba, run by the Houthis, said other air strikes hit a nearby girls school and damaged several civilian homes.
It was not immediately possible to confirm that report, and a coalition spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
MSF HOSPITAL BOMBED IN AFGHANISTAN
An MSF hospital was bombed in an American air strike in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan on Oct. 3, killing 22 people including 12 MSF staff.
U.S. President Barack Obama apologized for that attack, but MSF continues to call for an independent humanitarian commission to investigate what it calls a war crime.
“International humanitarian law is not about “mistakes”. It is about intention, facts and why … It is precisely because attacking hospitals in war zones is prohibited that we expected to be protected,” MSF director Joanne Liu said this month.
Seven months of air strikes in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and other U.S.-allied Gulf Arab countries have yet to loosen the Houthis’ grip on the capital Sanaa and make headway toward restoring the now Saudi-based Yemeni government to power.
The United States and Britain are supporting the coalition with intelligence and both are long-time arms suppliers to their Gulf Arab allies.
Human rights groups have voiced concern at the mounting death toll from aerial bombing and ground fighting raging across Yemen. Amnesty International has recommended an arms embargo on coalition states, citing repeated bombing of Yemeni civilians.
In a separate bombing on Monday, residents reported that a coalition air strike killed Haradh hospital director Yasser Wathab and two people he was traveling with in a car in the northwestern province of Hajja. They said the group were en route to treat patients killed by an earlier air strike.
And the Saudi civil defense ministry said on its Twitter account that several shells fired from Houthi-held north Yemen over the border into the Saudi city of Najran killed two foreign residents and wounding a Saudi citizen.
More than 5,600 people have died in Yemen’s conflict and shuttle diplomacy by a United Nations envoy has yet to secure a political solution or reduce the intensity of combat.
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Ghobari, Mostafa Hashem and Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
SOURCE: NOAH BROWNING