MSF leaving Yemen hospital where Houthis ‘threatened workers at gunpoint’

Aid backages are being unloaded from a Doctors Without Borders plane at Sanaa International Airport, in this May 14, 2015 file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 25 March 2017

MSF leaving Yemen hospital where Houthis ‘threatened workers at gunpoint’

AMMAN: Houthi “interference” has prompted Doctors Without Borders to start withdrawing from a hospital in Yemen, a senior official said.
The military presence at the Al-Thawra hospital, in the governorate of Ibb, is violating the sanctity of the medical profession, the official told Arab News.
The Houthi presence has prompted Doctors Without Borders, which is known by its French acronym MSF, to terminate provision of services and withdraw from the hospital.
Speaking by phone from Zurich, the organization’s deputy director, medical doctor Tammam Al-Oudat, said the Houthis continue to obstruct the work of the MSF teams, as well as of other medics operating at the hospital.
This is impeding them from performing their duties and from providing proper medical services to patients, he said.
“We have asked the (Houthi militias) to guarantee full and free access to patients to hospitals, as well as end the military presence in the hospital and stop interfering with the medics’ decision-making process,” Al-Oudat told Arab News.
“They refused to meet our demands and therefore the MSF decided to gradually end its services and leave the hospital over the next three months.”
Meanwhile, the Yemeni press quoted Local Affairs Minister Abdul Raqib Fattah as saying that Houthi militia had broken into the Al-Thawra hospital and threatened workers at gunpoint.
He called on relevant UN organizations to condemn Houthi aggression against the medical teams in areas under their control.
Al-Oudat said MSF medical teams will continue to provide medical services to locals in the Al-Shifa hospital, in the same governorate, which receives patients from Taiz.
According to Al-Oudat, the Al-Thawra hospital will continue to operate, but under the supervision and administration of Yemeni medical staff.
The MSF has been working at the hospital since 2015.
Al-Oudat said that over the past month, MSF has received over 41,000 patients at the Al-Thawra hospital, with more than 50,000 surgeries conducted on citizens from across Yemen since the war broke out nearly two years ago.
MSF teams are also providing medical services to Yemenis in eight governorates across Yemen.
Access to quality, affordable health care is severely compromised, Al-Oudat said, and after almost two years of war, humanitarian and medical aid is still failing to meet people’s most basic needs.
In a separate development, a Saudi soldier was killed by a missile fired by the Houthis that struck a military base near the border, the Interior Ministry said Friday.
The missile was launched late Thursday from a rebel-controlled area in Yemen and hit a base in Dhahran South, killing border guard Atallah Yassine Al-Anzi, according to a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

US ‘suspects’ Iran seized UAE based oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

Updated 51 min 41 sec ago

US ‘suspects’ Iran seized UAE based oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

  • Ship tracking data shows the Panamanian-flagged tanker Riah stopped transmitting its location Saturday
  • A US defense official told AP that Riah is in Iranian territorial waters near Qeshm Island

LONDON: The US said it suspects Iran has seized an oil tanker that drifted into Iranian waters as it traveled through the Strait of Hormuz.

Ship tracking data shows the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah, which is based in the UAE, stopped transmitting its location on Saturday.

The incident is the latest involving shipping in the region where tensions between Iran and the US have escalated in recent months. Iran has been accused of planting mines on several tankers as Washington ramps up economic and military pressure on the regime over its nuclear program and aggressive foreign policy in the region.

Iran also threatened to retaliate against shipping after British forces this month helped seize an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar as it attempted to deliver oil to Syria.

A US defense official told AP that Riah is in Iranian territorial waters near Qeshm Island, which has a Revolutionary Guard base on it. He said the US "has suspicions" Iran seized the vessel.

"Could it have broken down or been towed for assistance? That's a possibility," the official said. "But the longer there is a period of no contact ... it's going to be a concern."

The Riah, a 58-meter oil tanker, traveled from a port near Dubai through the Strait of Hormuz toward Fujairah on the UAE's east coast. After 11 p.m. Saturday something happened to the vessel, according to tracking data.

Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told AP that the tanker had not switched off its tracking in three months of trips around the UAE.

"That is a red flag," Raja said. 

An Emirati official told Al Arabiya that the oil tanker is not owned or operated by the UAE and has not sent a distress call.

“We are monitoring the situation with our international partners,” the official said.

The ship's registered owner, Dubai-based Prime Tankers LLC, told AP it had sold the ship to another company.

Iranian officials have not said anything publicly about the ship.

*With AP