Middle East

Yemen conflict: MSF hospital destroyed by air strikes

Aftermath of air strike on Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Saada province, Yemen (27 October 2015) Image copyright Medecins Sans Frontieres
Image caption The MSF project co-ordinator in Saada said 99% of the hospital was destroyed

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says one of its hospitals in northern Yemen has been destroyed by several air strikes.

The first, which occurred around 22:30 (19:30 GMT) on Monday, hit part of the facility in Saada province that was not being used, according to the charity.

All staff and patients had been evacuated by the time the second strike hit about 10 minutes later.

However, the Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen's Houthi rebel movement denied that it had bombed the hospital.

Asked by the Reuters news agency if he knew what had caused the blasts, spokesman Brig-Gen Ahmed al-Asiri said: "We cannot tell without investigation."

Gen Asiri has previously said the coalition has destroyed every fighter jet in Yemen.

The conflict in Yemen has left more than 5,600 people dead, including 2,615 civilians, since the coalition air campaign began in late March.

About two-thirds of the civilian deaths were caused by coalition air strikes, and the rest by the rebels and their allies, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said on Tuesday.

'War crime'

More than 15,000 people wounded in air strikes and fighting on the ground have been treated in MSF-supported hospitals in the past seven months.

Image copyright Medecins Sans Frontieres
Image caption Debris of hospital: The Saudi-led coalition has not yet commented on MSF's allegations

The charity's hospital in Saada's Haydan district served 200,000 people and was the only life-saving facility in the region, receiving 150 emergency cases a week.

An MSF statement said that all staff on duty and two in-patients managed to escape between the first and second air strikes on Monday night.

The facility's director was slightly injured during the evacuation.

After visiting the site on Tuesday morning, MSF's project co-ordinator in Saada, Miriam Czech, said: "I was not able to go inside as we believed there were remaining bombs that have not exploded, but I can confirm that the facility is 99% destroyed."

The facility's director said that only the x-ray department and staffroom remained.

"It could be a mistake, but the fact of the matter is it's a war crime," MSF country director Hassan Boucenine told the Reuters news agency.

Image copyright Medecins Sans Frontieres
Image caption MSF said it gave the Saudi-led coalition the GPS co-ordinates of its hospitals earlier this month

"There's no reason to target a hospital. We provided [the coalition] with all of our GPS co-ordinates about two weeks ago," he added.

This is the second attack this month on an MSF facility.

On 3 October, US aircraft bombed a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz, killing at least 22 people.

MSF has demanded an independent international investigation into the bombing, which it says was a war crime. The US has said the hospital was bombed by mistake and President Barack Obama has apologised.