Rebels fire from hospital
Despite US calls for a ceasefire, fighting is escalating in a strategic Yemeni port city, threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of trapped civilians and deepening a humanitarian crisis in which millions are at risk of starvation.
Rebel fighters have taken up positions on top of one of Hodeidah’s main civilian hospitals, Amnesty International warned.
The human rights group said civilians inside the hospital were at risk of being hit by a Saudi-led coalition air assault after militiamen set up on the roof.
“This is a stomach-churning development that could have devastating consequences for the hospital’s medical workers and civilian patients, including many children,” Amnesty said.
The group warned that while the Houthis’ use of the hospital for military purposes was a violation of international law, it was not a justification for coalition forces to target the building.
“Anyone attacking a hospital under these conditions risks responsibility for war crimes,” it said.
The clashes in Hodeida, pitting a US-backed regional coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Iran-backed northern Houthi rebels, have killed dozens of civilians and combatants in the past week, according to residents and aid agencies.
Coalition forces pounded the city with air strikes and pushed through its streets this week.
“We have been receiving a lot of civilian casualties,” Mareb Almahweeti, a surgeon at a military hospital said, adding many of the injured were struck by shrapnel from air strikes.
“The Apache helicopters are bombing many areas around the city most of the day,” he said.
The UAE command has declared: “Either the rebels surrender the city peacefully or we take it by force — but we will take it either way.”
The intensified attack came despite a US call for a ceasefire within 30 days, followed by UNbrokered peace talks in Sweden.
Hodeidah is the lifeline for food and humanitarian aid in Houthi-controlled territory in the north of Yemen. Human rights groups say fighting there threatens to plunge the rest of the country into deeper misery.
Lise Grande, the top UN humanitarian official in Yemen, said: “The most vulnerable people in the whole country are in Hodeida. These are the poorest of the poor. And they can’t get out.”