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Saudis Deny Bombing MSF Hospital in Yemen

Aftermath of an airstrike on a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Saada province, Yemen, Oct. 27, 2015.
Aftermath of an airstrike on a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Saada province, Yemen, Oct. 27, 2015.

A senior Saudi Arabian diplomat on Wednesday said Arab coalition aircraft did not bomb a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Yemen.

The airstrikes that began late Monday did not cause any casualties, but destroyed the facility in the northwestern province of Saada, which is a stronghold of anti-government Houthi rebels.

“The Arab coalition aircrafts did not carry out operations in Saada at the time of the reported incident,” Saudi U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi told reporters. “The nearest area of operations was close to the Saudi-Yemeni borders, about 40 kilometers north of the above mentioned hospital,” he added.

He said a thorough investigation by the Yemeni government and the coalition into the incident is under way.

The medical charity, also known by its French name Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), said staff members and critically wounded patients were evacuated on Tuesday. The hospital has been treating about 200 war wounded each month since May.

The organization said it regularly shared the facility’s GPS coordinates with the Saudi-led coalition and the hospital’s roof was clearly marked with the charity’s logo.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has repeatedly called on the parties to cease hostilities, strongly condemned the attack. In a statement from his spokesperson, he emphasized that hospitals and medical personnel are explicitly protected under international humanitarian law, and he called for a quick and impartial investigation.

A Saudi-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes in Yemen since late March, targeting Iranian-backed Shi’ite Houthi rebels who forced President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to flee the country.

Hadi has since returned with the air campaign and ground troops regaining territory the rebels had seized.

The United Nations has been working to bring the parties together for talks to reach a political settlement to the conflict. U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said on Friday that he is making progress and hopes to announce a date and location for the talks very soon.

The fighting has thrown the Arab World’s poorest nation into a deep humanitarian crisis, with the U.N. reporting that 80 percent of the population - some 21 million people - require assistance.