Medical aid group withdraws from north Yemen after attacks

AP News
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Posted: Aug 18, 2016 1:39 PM
Medical aid group withdraws from north Yemen after attacks

CAIRO (AP) — Doctors Without Borders announced on Thursday that it's withdrawing from northern Yemen due to what the international aid group called "indiscriminate bombings and unreliable reassurances" from the Saudi-led coalition that's fighting Shiite rebels in the country.

The group, known by its French acronym MSF, said an attack on a hospital it supported in the area on Monday had killed 19 people and wounded 24 — a higher death toll after some of the wounded had died. Earlier, 11 were reported killed.

"The airstrike on Abs Hospital was the fourth and the deadliest attack on an MSF-supported medical facility during this war, while there have been numerous attacks on other health facilities all over Yemen," the Geneva-based group said in a statement.

MSF also said that airstrikes in northern Yemen — a stronghold of the rebels known as Houthis — have intensified since peace talks collapsed earlier this month.

The conflict in Yemen pits an internationally-recognized government backed by a Saudi-led coalition against the Shiite Houthi rebels, who captured the capital, Sanaa, in September 2014. The Saudi-led coalition, supported by the United States, has been carrying out airstrikes in Yemen since March 2015.

MSF said that aerial bombardment had continued despite its sharing of its hospitals' GPS coordinates with the parties involved in the conflict, including the one in Hajjah governorate attacked on Monday.

"Coalition officials repeatedly state that they honor international humanitarian law, yet this attack shows a failure to control the use of force and to avoid attacks on hospitals full of patients," MSF said, urging an independent investigation.

Doctors Without Borders, which operates in conflict zones around the world, has had a number of its facilities attacked over the past year.

The group said in May that at least 100 staff members, patients and caretakers were killed, and another 130 were wounded, in aerial bombing and shelling attacks on more than 80 MSF-supported and run health structures in 2015 and early 2016.

The war in Yemen has left a security vacuum throughout parts of the country. Both al-Qaida and its main rival, the Islamic State group, have exploited the turmoil and expanded their footprint in the country's southern region.

Rights groups and U.N. agencies say that more than 9,000 people have been killed since the Yemen war escalated with the Saudi-led airstrikes. The conflict has also pushed the Arab world's poorest nation to the brink of famine.

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