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MSF suspends operations in area of Yemen after air raid

By AFP - Jun 12,2018 - Last updated at Jun 12,2018

Yemenis buy sweets and nuts at a market in Sanaa on Sunday, as Muslims prepare to celebrate Eid Al Fitr on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan (AFP photo)

DUBAI — Doctors Without Borders said on Monday it had "temporarily frozen" operations in a rebel-held area of northwestern Yemen following an air raid on a cholera treatment centre it supports.

There were no casualties in the strike that hit the newly built clinic in the Abs region, which was empty at the time, said the charity, commonly known by its French initials MSF.

"This morning's attack on an MSF cholera treatment centre by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition shows complete disrespect for medical facilities and patients," said MSF's Head of Mission Joao Martins.

"MSF has temporarily frozen its activities in Abs until the safety of its staff and patients is guaranteed," he said. 

The charity said the facility's roof clearly identified it as a medical centre and that its coordinates had been given to the coalition.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other allies intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognised government to power after the Iran-backed Houthi rebels ousted it from swathes of the country including the capital Sanaa.

Riyadh accuses its regional rival Tehran of supplying the Houthis — who control Abs — with ballistic missiles, a charge Iran denies.

A spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition was not immediately available for comment.

Since July 2015 MSF has supported the Abs hospital, just 1 kilometre away from the cholera treatment centre hit Monday, according to the charity's website.

On August 15, 2016, an air strike destroyed part of the Abs hospital, killing 19 people — including an MSF staff member — and wounding 24 others.

Shortly after the deadly raid, MSF suspended operations in several facilities in the country's north. 

But last November, the group returned to Abs after the hospital's reconstruction was complete — employing about 200 national workers and a dozen international medical professionals since. 

In December 2016, the coalition acknowledged that it had targeted the MSF-supported hospital due to an "unintentional mistake". 

MSF's renewed halt in operations comes four days after the International Committee of the Red Cross announced it had moved 71 staff members out of Yemen due to security concerns.

The conflict has killed nearly 10,000 people and wounded more than 55,000, according to the World Health Organisation. 

More than 2,200 people have died of cholera and millions are on the brink of starvation, in what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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