Doctors Without Borders Says Clinic Hit in Yemen Was Known to Coalition


CAIRO — A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia that bombed a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Yemen on Wednesday had regularly been provided with the coordinates of the clinic, the medical charity said in a statement on Thursday.

The airstrikes on the clinic, in the war-torn southern city of Taiz, wounded nine people, including two Doctors Without Borders staff members, the organization said. The coordinates of the clinic had been given to Saudi officials most recently on Nov. 29, it said.

“There is no way that the Saudi-led coalition could have been unaware of the presence of M.S.F. activities in this location,” Jerome Alin, the Yemeni director for Doctors Without Borders, said in the statement, using the initials of the organization’s French name, Médecins Sans Frontières. The group had also contacted the coalition shortly before the attack, when airstrikes in a nearby park appeared to threaten the clinic.

The bombings on Wednesday were the second attack by the Saudi-led coalition on a Doctors Without Borders medical site in Yemen in less than two months, and the group’s medical facitilties have been hit in other war zones, including in Afghanistan and Syria. In late October, the Saudi-led coalition destroyed a hospital in Yemen’s northern Haydan district, near the border with Saudi Arabia.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition did not answer calls seeking comment on the latest attack.

The coalition aerial campaign began in March as a way to defeat the Houthi rebels who had captured territory across Yemen. Nine months later, the Houthis remain in control of large parts of the country and more than 2,500 civilians have been killed in the war, most of them, by coalition airstrikes, according to the United Nations and human rights groups.

A report last week by the Human Rights Watch that looked at 10 airstrikes across Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition from April through August found that the attacks were not aimed at military targets, or else “failed to distinguish civilians from military objectives,” and most likely amounted to violations of international humanitarian law. The strikes killed at least 309 civilians, said the group, which is based in New York.

Human Rights Watch said that the United States, which has supported the Saudi-led coalition, was also a “party to the conflict by playing a direct role in coordinating military operations” and might be party to violations of the laws of war by the coalition.

The group cited statements by the commander of the Air Force Central Command, Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., saying that the United States had detached personnel to a center in Saudi Arabia where the airstrikes were planned.

Doctors Without Borders, citing local sources, said it evacuated its tented clinic after several airstrikes hit a park nearby around 11 a.m. on Wednesday. The group said it notified the Saudi-led coalition that their “jet planes were mounting an attack nearby.” Then, the clinic came under attack, the group said.

Few hospitals are functioning in Taiz, which has been blockaded by the Houthis for months and has been the scene of the some of the fiercest fighting in the war. Doctors Without Borders said that the clinic that was struck, in the Houban district, had treated 408 patients in the two days before the airstrikes.

This article was crossposted from the New York Times website: