Yemen (GPA) – Although the topic doesn’t get the media attention it deserves, it’s no secret that Saudi-led airstrikes frequently target non-military civilian areas such as funerals, hospitals, and agricultural land– with U.S. and U.K.-supplied weapons. But the violence doesn’t only come from the skies as a new report from Amnesty International shows that Saudi-backed forces on the ground are also terrorizing doctors, hospitals, and patients in the city of Ta’iz.
Doctors and staff stated that harassment and threats from the Saudi-backed coalition have been commonplace inside hospitals over at least the past six months. Pro-Hadi forces terrorize and intimidate hospital staff by forcing them at gun point to abandon treating Houthi fighters for life threatening injuries and instead treat Pro-Hadi Saudi-backed fighters for minor injuries such as broken legs. President Hadi currently lives in hiding in Saudi Arabia. The terrorism has prompted at least three hospitals to shut down. “According to eyewitnesses three armed men stormed an office at the hospital and threatened to kill medical staff if it was not shut down immediately. They also tried to drag the two surviving Huthi fighters – one of whom is a minor- out of the hospital’s intensive care and recovery units, but were prevented by medical staff. The third Huthi fighter had died while receiving treatment,” the report states describing an incident from last week.
On top of terrorizing doctors and staff inside Yemen’s hospitals, the Saudi-backed (and indirectly western-armed) fighters have reportedly surrounded hospitals with military bases. Including setting up tanks around hospitals despite pleas from staff and local authorities notto do so. “There is compelling evidence to suggest that anti-Huthi forces have waged a campaign of fear and intimidation against medical professionals in Ta’iz. By positioning fighters and military positions near medical facilities they have compromised the safety of hospitals and flouted their obligation to protect civilians under international law,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. According to one doctor, hospital security were no match for the armed men: “There are dozens of armed men in the hospital. Am I running a hospital or a battalion?… The armed men will create any problem with you outside the hospital if you refuse them.”
Along with clean water and food, medical treatment is also hard to come by in the fractured country. At least 70 medical facilities have been damaged or destroyed. In August, an airstrike from Saudi coalition hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital; killing at least 15 people and prompting to organization to close all six of its Yemen locations. Evidence from Amnesty indicated in September that a U.S.-made bomb was used in this attack. A $1.5 billion arms sale from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia followed a week later.