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Airstrikes against Hospital In Yemen in Violation of International Law

As the death toll continues to rise, UN bodies condemn Yemen airstrike; "This is unacceptable"

Pictured: Destruction following airstrike in Yemen; Photo: OCHA Philippe Kropf

Another deadly airstrike hits a hospital in Northwestern Yemen, marking it as the fourth hospital targeted in which the NGO Doctors Without Borders had a presence. The hospital, which was evacuated, was the main medical facility in the area

On the 15th of August, an air strike targeting a rural hospital in Yemen killed 14, injuring at least 25 more. (Report.)  The hospital was supported by Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins Sans Frontiers, an international humanitarian organization directed towards bringing medical personnel and supplies to regions that are in need. In the attack, at least one of the lives lost was that of a personnel member of the organization, and with this attack coming as the fourth attack on an MSF facility in the last twelve months, international parties from across the globe have loudly condemned the violence.

Abs Hospital, located in the Northwestern Yemen in the Hajjah governorate, fell under attack at 3:45pm local time, instantly killing 9. As MSF had shared the coordinates of the hospital with all parties involved in the fighting, the odds that the hospital was accidentally hit are extremely low, warranting condemnation from MSF, the World Health Organization, as well as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Teresa Sancristoval, MSF Emergency Program manager for Yemen, said in a statement  that “either intentional or as a result of negligence, this is unacceptable.” She went on to call on all parties, on behalf of the organization, to ensure that such an attack never happens again.

The attack partially destroyed the hospital, rendering it ineffective and forcing all patients and staff to evacuate the premises. This is a blow for the region as more and more medical facilities have fallen under attack, limiting the number of places where civilians can safely seek treatment. This troublesome trend was noted in a statement issued on behalf of the United Nations Secretary General by his spokesman, in which he said “The Secretary-General notes that the parties to the conflict in Yemen have damaged or destroyed over 70 health centres, including three other MSF-supported facilities… The shrinking humanitarian space and limited access to essential services for Yemenis, a situation exacerbated by the return to full-scale hostilities, is a matter of ever greater concern.” He reminded the international community that attacks against hospitals and medical personnel were in direct violation of International Humanitarian law, and demanded immediate and thorough investigation into the matter. With the hospital formerly being the main medical establishment in the area, there is also concern that Yemeni citizens are quickly losing access to safe medical care. Juan Prieto, MSF head of mission in Yemen, said in a statement that “with the closure of this once fully functioning hospital that served the whole area, the community is now deprived of essential medical services at a time when access to health care is most vital.”

At the moment, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has strongly called on all parties in the conflict to implement a cessation of hostilities, which was officially declared on April 10th,  for the good of the citizens in the region. Currently, involved parties are in breach of international law, and with hundreds of active NGO personnel still working in the region, it’s vital that such attacks cease to occur.

La Voce will continue to report on this story as it unfolds.

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