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Yemen hospital bombers 'knew what they were hitting'

MSF facilities have been hit in several locations, including the Afghan city of Kunduz [AFP]

Date of publication: 11 January, 2016

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At least four people were killed as a Medecins Sans Frontieres clinic was hit by an airstrike, despite military officials knowing the medical aid group was working there.
Doctors Without Borders has condemned a Sunday missile strike that killed at least four people and injured 10 others in one of the hospitals it supports in northern Yemen.

The Paris-based medical humanitarian organisation, known by its French acronym MSF, denounced the "warring parties" who were supposedly regularly informed of the GPS coordinates of the medical sites where MSF works.

"We are in constant dialogue with them to ensure that they understand the severity of the humanitarian consequences of the conflict and the need to respect the provision of medical services," said MSF director of operations Raquel Ayora.

"There is no way that anyone with the capacity to carry out an airstrike or launch a rocket would not have known that the Shiara Hospital was a functioning health facility providing critical services and supported by MSF.

"We reiterate to all parties to the conflict that patients and medical facilities must be respected and that bombing hospitals is a violation of international humanitarian law."
The attack left three MSF staff injured; two remain in critical condition.

"The numbers of casualties could rise as there could still be people trapped in the rubble," MSF said in a statement, adding that the missile hit the medical facility in the Razeh district of Saada province.

The attack destroyed several buildings of the medical facility.

MSF could not confirm the origin of the attack, but planes were seen flying over the facility at the time.

The air raid is the third of its kind in four months in the war-ravaged country, where a Saudi-led coalition has been battling Shia Houthi rebels who have seized territory from the internationally recognised government.

MSF hospitals hit

Last month, MSF accused the coalition of bombing its clinic in Taiz, southwest Yemen, wounding nine people including two staff members.

The coalition said it would investigate that claim, although it has repeatedly insisted it "does not attack civilians".

In October, an airstrikes hit another hospital run by MSF near Saada without causing any fatalities.

MSF facilities have also been hit elsewhere, with the deadliest recent strike coming during a US air raid on the hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz, killing 42 people.

Washington has said the October strike, which came as NATO-backed Afghan forces clashed with insurgents for control of the northern provincial capital, was "caused primarily by human error".

     
      A US air raid on an MSF hospital in the 
Afghan city of Kunduz killed 42 people [AFP]

The EU has led international condemnation of the latest strike, describing it as an "unacceptable attack".

Saada is the heartland of the Shia Houthi rebels that the coalition has been bombing since March in support of Yemen's beleaguered government.

More than 5,800 people have been killed in Yemen since the start of the bombing campaign, about half of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

At least 27,000 people have been wounded and 80 percent of the population is in need of humanitarian aid, according to UN figures.

The UN envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, arrived in Sanaa on Sunday to convince the rebels and their allies to attend a new round of peace talks.

He had met with Yemeni government officials temporarily based in Riyadh, before he headed to Sanaa.

Foreign Minister Abdel Malak al-Mekhlafi told AFP the talks, initially scheduled to start on January 14, had been postponed until January 20 or 23.

The government sat down with the rebels and their allies last month in Switzerland for six days of talks that ended without a major breakthrough.

Also on Sunday, Yemeni intelligence colonel Ali Saleh al-Nakhibi was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in second city Aden, a security official said.

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