Amnesty accuses Houthi militia of ‘militarizing’ Yemen hospital

The human rights group said the Houthi militia stationed fighters on the roof of a hospital in the May 22 district of the Red Sea port city. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 November 2018

Amnesty accuses Houthi militia of ‘militarizing’ Yemen hospital

  • Houthi militia recently stationed fighters on the roof of a hospital in the May 22 district of Hodeida
  • Pro-government forces advance deeper into Hodeidah

DUBAI: Amnesty International accused the Houthi militia on Thursday of “deliberate militarization of hospitals” in the battleground city of Hodeidah and called on warring parties to protect civilians.

The human rights group’s condemnation came as Yemeni pro-government forces advanced further into the city and closer to the docks country’s most important port.

Amnesty said the Iran-backed Houthis recently stationed fighters on the roof of a hospital in the May 22 district of the Red Sea port city, calling the action a “stomach-churning development.”

It said the move risked “devastating consequences” for the hospital’s staff and patients.

“The presence of Houthi fighters on the hospital’s roof violates international humanitarian law,” Samah Hadid, Amnesty’s Middle East campaigns director, told AFP.

A medical source told AFP on Wednesday the militia had forced medical staff out of the May 22 Hospital - one of Hodeidah’s main medical facilities - and posted snipers on the roof.

Pro-government forces on Thursday pressed closer to the heart of Hodeidah, whose port serves as the entry point for nearly 80 per cent of commercial imports and nearly all UN-supervised humanitarian aid.

After a week of intense battles on the city’s outskirts, the troops reached residential neighbourhoods, using bulldozers to remove concrete road blocks installed by the Houthis, AFP reported.

Yemeni pro-government forces gather in a highway as they advance towards central Hodeidah. (AFP)

Flashing victory signs, troops of the United Arab Emirates-trained Giants Brigade armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades rolled down the city's streets in pickup trucks bearing their brigade logo spray-painted in red.

Columns headed for the port advanced two kilometres along the main road from the interior to the east and three kilometres along the coast road from the south, military sources told AFP.

“Either the rebels surrender the city peacefully or we take it by force, but we will take it either way,” commander Moammar Al-Saidy said.

Houthi chief Abdulmalek Al-Houthi vowed late on Wednesday that his fighters would never surrender despite being seriously outnumbered.

Coalition warplanes bombed Houthi  positions as the ground forces advanced.

At least 47 Houthi fighters were killed, hospital sources in rebel-held areas said. Medics at hospitals in government-held territory said 11 soldiers were killed.

The deaths bring the overall toll from seven days of fighting to 250 combatants killed –197 militants and 53 pro-government troops.

Aid groups have appealed to both the rebels and the coalition to allow civilians to escape the city of some 600,000 people.

The Houthis have controlled Hodeidah since 2014 when they overran the capital Sanaa and then swept through much of the rest of the country triggering Saudi-led military intervention the following year.

Government forces backed by significant numbers of United Arab Emirates ground troops launched an offensive to retake the city in June.

UN agencies say some 14 million people are at risk of famine in Yemen, which they have described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

On Thursday, the World Food Programme said it planned to double its food assistance programme for Yemen, aiming to reach up to 14 million people "to avert mass starvation"

Aid groups have appealed to both the rebels and the coalition to provide safe passage for fleeing civilians and halt fighting around hospitals.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths on Wednesday said he aimed to hold peace talks by the end of the year, after last week saying he would try to bring them together by the end of the month.

Daesh claims Syria attack that killed 16, including 2 US soldiers

Updated 6 min 31 sec ago

Daesh claims Syria attack that killed 16, including 2 US soldiers

  • Seven civilians died in the attack, while 10 others were wounded
  • A member of the US-led military was killed, and another was severely injured

BEIRUT: A blast struck near a US-led coalition patrol in Syria’s northern city of Manbij on Wednesday, and a war monitor said 16 people were killed including two Americans.
An Daesh-affiliated web site, Amaq, said an attacker with an explosive vest had struck a foreign military patrol in a suicide attack.
Reuters could not independently verify a report by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that 14 people had been killed in the attack including two US soldiers. The coalition could not be immediately reached for comment.
Last month, US President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement that he would withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria after concluding Daesh had been defeated there. The announcement rattled allies in the region and top US officials, including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis who quit.
Two witnesses described Wednesday’s blast to Reuters. The US-backed, Kurdish-led Manbij Military Council militia that controls the town said there was preliminary information that people had been injured in Wednesday’s attack.
Manbij has been held by US-backed fighters allied to the Kurdish YPG militia since they took it from Daesh in 2016. It is located near areas held by Russian-backed Syrian government forces and by anti-Assad fighters backed by Turkey.
One of the witnesses said there was a “heavy” presence of military aircraft over Manbij following the blast, which took place near a vegetable market.