The Spokesperson for the High Representative for EU Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides condemned – on behalf of the EU and its Member States – the recent air attack on a fully operational hospital in northern Yemen on Monday (15 August). The attack claimed the lives of at least 14 people, including one aid worker, and 24 people were injured, the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontier – MSF) said. At the time of the air strikes, there were 23 patients in the surgery ward, 23 in the maternity ward, 13 newborns and 12 patients in the pediatric ward, MSF added.
The air attacks are the latest in a series of attacks on medical facilities and personnel as well as school since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen. They are having an immediate impact on the health sector, according to UNICEF. “Health care is grinding to a halt and is on the verge of collapse,” said Bismarck Swangin, UNICEF communication specialist in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. The attacks often target humanitarian operations and civilians, including many children, and are clearly prohibited under International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The EU urged all parties to the conflict to act responsibly, abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and avoid targeting civilians.
The conflict in Yemen is a proxy battleground between two regional powers – Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Arab coalition started launching airstrikes in support of the Sunni government against the Shiite Houthi minority rebels in March 2015. According to the EU, the solution to the conflict remains to be a political one. Brussels urged all parties to resume UN-facilitated negotiations that reached a dead end last week. The EU moreover urged the parties to refrain from any unilateral decisions that contradict the spirit of the negotiations and reassured that it is fully committed to support this UN-led process.