MSF International

MSF-run hospital in Yemen hit by Saudi-led airstrikes

Group's head of mission in country says it gave location to coalition and doesn't see how attack not 'deliberate'

A small medical facility run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the northern Yemeni province of Saada was destroyed by two Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, but there were no casualties, the aid group's chief in Yemen said Tuesday.

Hassan Boucenine, the Yemen head of mission at MSF, said the first strike came around 11 p.m. on Monday and hit a building housing the facility's administration offices. The second strike hit the hospital's maternity ward that is located in front of the emergency room and destroyed the hospital, Boucenine told Al Jazeera, adding that staff and patients had about five minutes to evacuate. No one was killed. 

Some people suffered minor injuries, including burns, scratches and abrasions, Boucenine said, adding that MSF had provided location coordinates to the Saudi-led coalition very recently. 

"We gave [the] GPS position — all the positions of our hospital — to the coalition ahead [of time] and we renew them every month and latest of date was done like two weeks ago," Boucenine said. "They perfectly know it's an MSF hospital." 

A Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition has been launching airstrikes against Yemen's Houthi rebels and their allies since March. Saada, the Houthi stronghold, has faced a particularly intense bombardment.

Yemen's state news agency Saba, currently run by the Houthis, said other airstrikes 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.

The strike on the Yemen hospital was the second attack this month on the international medical charity. 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 the 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 earlier this month. 

Of the latest attack, Boucenine said it was simply "unacceptable." 

"We're not talking about a coalition with obsolete equipment and they have state-of-the-art planes, they can perfectly [locate] our facilities, so I cannot see how it cannot be deliberate," he said.

Yemen has been embroiled in fighting between the Houthis and allied army units against forces loyal to the internationally-recognized government. Amid the fighting, Southern separatists and Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch have pressed their own territorial ambitions.

The conflict gained international attention when the Houthis took over the capital, Sanaa, in September last year, and escalated in March when the coalition started launching airstrikes against Houthi positions.

In Geneva, the office for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights said Tuesday that some 2,615 civilians have been killed in Yemen violence over the last six months. OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville said about two-thirds of those deaths were caused by air strikes, and the rest by Houthi rebels and their allies. 

Al Jazeera and wire services 

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