08/19/2016, 10.23

Six hospitals evacuated in the north after Saudi bombings

Doctors Without Borders recalls staff of six facilities, situated in the territories controlled by the Houthi rebels. MSF: difficult decision, but it has "lost confidence" in the ability of the Arab coalition to avoid civilian casualties. Since the beginning of the Saudis raids, four structures of the NGO have been hit.

Sana'a (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The International NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have announced the evacuation of six so far active structures in northern Yemen; the decision is the result of the August 15 attack on a hospital in Abs, Hajjah province, in a portion of the territory under the control of the Houthi rebels. In the air raid launched by the Saudi led Arab coalition 19 people died, 24 others were injured.

That of the past few days is the fourth - and deadliest - attack on an MSF facility in Yemen since the war began. Hence the decision of the NGO leaders to recall staff from areas most at risk.

In a statement the MSF leaders point out that the decision to withdraw "is never taken lightly." However, "given the intensity of the offensive in place and our loss of confidence in the ability of the SLC [acronym for the Arab coalition led by Riyadh] to avoid the recurrence of similar incidents, MSF considers its hospitals unsafe in the governorates of Saada and Hajjah”.

The fears are related both to "staff security" and the "health of patients." The six hospitals, concludes the statement of the international NGO, will continue to operate under the guidance of local medical staff and volunteers.

Since January 2015, Yemen has been the scene of a bloody civil war pitting the country’s Sunni leadership, backed by Saudi Arabia, against Shia Houthi rebels, close to Iran.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against the rebels in an attempt to free the capital For Saudi Arabia, the Houthis, who are allied to forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, are militarily supported by Iran, a charge the latter angrily rejects.

Groups linked to al Qaeda and jihadist militias linked to the Islamic State group are active in the country, which adds to the spiral of violence and terror.

Since the beginning of the month the Saudi led coalition - often "accused errors" in the military operations, which eventually also involve civilians - have stepped up air raids on rebel-held areas, following the suspension [failure] of peace talks. The bombings of recent days have attracted the condemnation of the international community; in response, the Saudis have announced the opening of an investigation.

In the hours after the attack, MSF announced that the hospital coordinates - which housed patients in recovery after surgery, pregnant women and children in pediatrics - had long been known and shared with all parties involved in the conflict.

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