Airstrike hits Yemen hospital, kills 11, aid group says

Yemen Context Map

An airstrike on Monday hit a hospital in northwestern Yemen and killed at least 11 people, said humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders.

Medical teams are treating the wounded after an airstrike hit the Abs hospital in Hajjah province, the aid group said on Twitter. At least 19 were injured, the group said.

“We are assessing the situation to secure the safety of patients and staff,” Doctors Without Borders said. More than 4,600 patients have received medical help since the group, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF, began supporting the hospital in July 2015.

The facility has been providing a range of services and medical aid for internally displaced people, along with emergency and maternal health care and surgery, the group said on its website.

The hospital had a 14-bed emergency room, a maternity unit and a surgical unit and had seen in an uptick in wounded patients in the last weeks, most hurt in clashes and in the bombing campaign, the group said on Twitter.

At the time of Monday’s attack, there were 23 patients in the surgery ward, 23 in the maternity ward, 13 newborns and 12 patients in the pediatric ward, the group said.

The strike on the hospital comes on the heels of Saudi-led coalition planes bombing two schools in northern Yemen on Saturday, killing at least 14 children. The coalition insists the target of the airstrikes was a militia training camp.

The country has become a proxy battleground between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Arab coalition began launching airstrikes in support of the Sunni government against the Shiite Houthi minority rebels in March 2015. UN-led peace talks reached a dead end last week

It is not the first time a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders has been hit in Yemen. In January, at least five people were killed and 10 others, including three Doctors Without Borders members, were injured when a hospital was hit in northern Yemen.

Amnesty International called the hospital attack a “deplorable act” and potentially a war crime.

“Today’s airstrike appears to be the latest in a string of unlawful attacks targeting hospitals highlighting an alarming pattern of disregard for civilian life,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa program. “Deliberately targeting medical facilities is a serious violation of international humanitarian law which would amount to a war crime. The circumstances of this attack must be thoroughly and independently investigated.”

The U.S. State Department is “deeply concerned” about the reported hospital strike and is conferring with Saudi officials about civilian casualties, said spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau.

“We call on all parties to cease hostilities immediately,” Trudeau said. “We would note that the Saudi committee that was designated to look into civilian casualties … did share its findings with the UN. We believe that’s a step forward in transparency, and as we’ve previously underscored we also call on them to publicly release those reports.”

By Gul Tuysuz and Steve Visser