Rebels fire from hos­pi­tal

The West Australian - - INSIDE COVER -

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.”

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