Newsbrief, TerraViva United Nations

Air Strikes on Hospital in Yemen Under Fire

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 27 2015 (IPS) - The bombing of a Yemeni hospital, run by Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), has been described as a “war crime” – and triggered a wave of protests and outright condemnation.

“The attack on Haydan Hospital appears to have been an unlawful attack causing harm to civilians and civilian objects. The consecutive airstrikes show deliberate targeting of the medical facility – this is another sad day for civilians,” said Philip Luther, Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

According to MSF, the Saudi-led coalition forces allegedly carried out up to six consecutive airstrikes on October 26 on Haydan Hospital, located in the Haydan Directorate in Sa’da governorate.

“This is not the first strike on a hospital in Sa’da since the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s military intervention in Yemen began last March”, the Paris-based international medical humanitarian organization said.

Last month, the Saudi coalition reportedly bombed al-Sh’ara hospital in Razih, in the west of Sa’da governorate, resulting in the killing of six patients and the injury of six others.

MSF personnel who visited the site afterwards said there was no evidence that the hospital was being used for any military purposes.

On October 3, an MSF hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz was bombed by US forces, killing at least 22 people.
Although US President Barack Obama publicly apologized for the bombing, MSF has insisted on an international commission of inquiry into that air strike in Afghanistan.

However, the Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Houthi rebel movement denied that it had bombed the hospital, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BCC).

The Reuters news agency quoted coalition spokesman Brig-Gen Ahmed al-Asiri, as saying: “We cannot tell without investigation.”

Last month, the Saudi coalition is reported to have targeted a bomb-making factory – and ended up killing some 36 civilians working at a water-bottling plant in northern Yemen.

The same month it unleashed an air attack on a wedding party triggering outrage from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Secretary-General condemned the air strikes that reportedly struck a wedding party in Wahijah village, outside of the Red Sea port city of Mokha in Yemen, killing as many as 135 people.

“The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims and a swift recovery to those injured,” he said.

Ted Lieu, Democratic Congressman from California, has urged the United States to “cease aiding coalition air strikes in Yemen until the coalition demonstrates they will institute proper safeguards to prevent civilian deaths.”

In an interview with the New York Times, Lieu said it was unclear whether the coalition “was grossly negligent or intentionally targeting civilians.”

“There is clearly no military value in a wedding party,” he said.

The Saudi-led coalition of Arab states, includes Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

Amnesty International said: “Hospitals and medical units must be respected and protected in all circumstances – they only lose their protection against attack if they are used for military purposes – and the destruction of this one means the loss of vital humanitarian treatment for civilians across four directorates of northern Yemen”.

MSF staff confirmed the attack, saying they witnessed two consecutive airstrikes before fleeing the hospital compound. Three to four further airstrikes were reported, coming around five minutes apart.

According to Hassan Boucenine, MSF head of mission in Yemen, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition has the coordinates of all MSF hospitals in Yemen, including Haydan Hospital.

The hospital’s director Dr Ali al-Mughli said the hospital is now completely destroyed with the exception of the storage rooms.

He said that while the hospital often receives injured fighters, there was no military activity in the hospital at the time of the attack.

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