WASHINGTON ― A Doctors Without Borders hospital in Saada, Yemen, was hit by multiple airstrikes overnight, the group announced Tuesday morning. The hospital was destroyed but the group has not reported any deaths.
Doctors Without Borders identified the warplanes as belonging to a Saudi Arabian-led coalition, which has been ostensibly targeting the Houthi rebel group in Yemen since March. Of the approximately 5,000 people who have been killed in the civil war between the Houthis and Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government, half are civilians, the United Nations estimates.
Hassan Boucenine, head of Doctors Without Borders in Yemen, told The New York Times that the group had supplied the hospital's GPS coordinates to the Saudi coalition six months ago and reconfirmed them on a monthly basis.
Saada is a Houthi stronghold and comes under frequent fire from coalition airstrikes.
The U.S., which is allied with both Saudi Arabia and the beleaguered Hadi government, has backed the Saudi coalition since its inception in the spring. But at the same time, the White House has made an effort to excuse itself from responsibility for the devastatingly imprecise airstrikes.
"There is a clear distinction between logistical and intelligence support, which we have provided, and taking part in targeting decisions, which we do not do," a senior administration official told The Huffington Post earlier this month, shortly after coalition airstrikes killed 130 people at a wedding and two volunteers from Yemen’s International Red Crescent Society.
Pentagon spokesman Maj. James Brindle told HuffPost on Tuesday that the U.S. routinely asks Saudi Arabia to look into incidents resulting in civilian deaths, but declined to comment on the details of this specific attack.
"We have asked the Saudi government to investigate all credible reports of civilian casualties resulting from coalition-led airstrikes and, if confirmed, to address the factors that led to them," Brindle wrote in an email.
While U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen went largely unnoticed for several months, public appetite is waning for American involvement in a war with staggering civilian casualties. Last week, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, suggested blocking arms sales to Saudi Arabia until the Obama administration can offer evidence that the U.S. should support the airstrikes in Yemen.
"We have seen countless coalition airstrikes hitting residential neighborhoods, schools and hospitals, killing an unacceptable number of civilians," Murphy said Thursday in a statement.
"It's time for Congress to ask some serious questions about whether the United States’ current participation in this civil war is advancing our nation's national security interests," he continued, noting that the current instability threatens to empower Yemen’s al Qaeda group.
The destruction of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Yemen comes less than a month after U.S. airstrikes leveled one of the organization’s facilities in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing at least 30 staff members and patients.
The Pentagon has characterized the Afghanistan hospital bombing as a mistake, but Doctors Without Borders says it is implausible that the U.S. did not know the exact location of the hospital and has accused the military of war crimes. There are investigations by the Army, NATO and a joint U.S.-Afghan team underway, but the U.S. has resisted allowing an outside civilian group look into the attack.
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