The apparently deliberate targeting and destruction of a hospital supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in northern Yemen last night, which may amount to a war crime, demands an urgent, independent and thorough investigation, Amnesty International said today.
According to sources on the ground, at around 11.30 pm on 26 October the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces allegedly carried out up to six consecutive airstrikes on Haydan Hospital, located in the Haydan Directorate in Sa’da governorate. The hospital had more than 20 people inside at the time, including three patients and various medical and other staff members. Seven staff members were injured, but could not be taken to another hospital 60km away in Sa’da until 7am due to fears of further strikes.
“The attack on Haydan Hospital appears to have been an unlawful attack causing harm to civilians and civilian objects. The consecutive airstrikes show deliberate targeting of the medical facility – this is another sad day for civilians,” said Philip Luther, Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“Hospitals and medical units must be respected and protected in all circumstances – they only lose their protection against attack if they are used for military purposes – and the destruction of this one means the loss of vital humanitarian treatment for civilians across four directorates of northern Yemen".
MSF staff confirmed the attack, saying they witnessed two consecutive airstrikes before fleeing the hospital compound. Three to four further airstrikes were reported, coming around five minutes apart. According to Hassan Boucenine, MSF head of mission in Yemen, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition has the coordinates of all MSF hospitals in Yemen, including Haydan Hospital.
According to the hospital’s director Dr Ali al-Mughli, the hospital is now completely destroyed with the exception of the storage rooms. He said that while the hospital often receives injured fighters, there was no military activity in the hospital at the time of the attack.
Haydan is 60km south-west of Sa'da city, where the injured have now been taken. Dr Ali said there was a delay in taking them to the city’s al-Jamhouri hospital because airstrikes have been targeting convoys of people, meaning that even ambulances are not safe. The hospital also lost 60 litres of petrol and 1,000 litres of diesel in the strike, a huge loss at a time when fuel supplies are scarce.
This is not the first strike on a hospital in Sa'da since the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s military intervention in Yemen began last March. On 4 September 2015, the coalition reportedly bombed al-Sh’ara hospital in Razih, in the west of Sa’da governorate, resulting in the killing of six patients and the injury of six others. MSF personnel who visited the site afterwards said there was no evidence that the hospital was being used for any military purposes.
“We call on all parties to the conflict to respect and protect medical personnel and units and take every precaution to protect civilians caught up in the conflict. There must be an independent investigation into why hospitals and their patients are being targeted, rather than protected, as international humanitarian law requires,” said Philip Luther.