Houthi missile attack closes hospital serving hundreds of thousands of Yemenis

UN condemns rebel missile strike in the Red Sea port city of Mokha

Smoke is seen near an MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, hospital which is adjacent to a military site hit by a missile attack by Yemen's Houthi movement in the Red Sea port city of al-Mokha, Yemen November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
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Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis have been left without access to life-saving medical care after a rebel missile strike on the Red Sea port city of Mokha that damaged a hospital and destroyed a warehouse of medical supplies.

A military source in Mokha told The National that the Houthi rebels launched four missiles at the city on Wednesday night, three of which were intercepted by air defences installed by the Saudi-led coalition supporting the government. However, the remaining missile struck a weapons depot, causing secondary explosions that continued for more than an hour, according to residents.

At least six people were killed in the attack, including three civilians, the military source said. Ten others were injured and were taken to a field hospital in Mokha and to hospitals in Aden for treatment.

Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen, said a hospital run by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders had been forced to close after being badly damaged, and a large warehouse of medical supplies had been destroyed.

“Hundreds of thousands of people along the western coast who need emergency assistance, including hundreds who need life-saving surgeries each month, won’t get the help they need because of these strikes,” Ms Grande said in a statement. “This is shocking and completely unacceptable.”

The hospital is the only facility providing emergency trauma, obstetric and surgical care to half a million people along the western coast, the statement said.

Mokha was recaptured from the rebels in early 2017 as government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition pushed towards Hodeidah, the main port on the Red Sea coast, about 175 kilometres further north.

The city hosts several camps for people displaced by Yemen's civil war and serves as a logistics centre for government forces.

A spokesman for government forces in Hodeidah said the attack on Mokha came a day after the Iran-backed rebels launched a heavy assault on the Duraihimi area east of Hodeidah city.

"They used all types of heavy weapons, including tanks and artillery, in a new severe violation of the UN ceasefire," Col Wathah Al Dubaish told The National.

He said the attack threatened to set back recent progress in the implementation of the ceasefire in which the warring parties set up joint monitoring posts around the city under UN supervision.

The UN regards the ceasefire as a major step towards mediating a political solution to the conflict between the internationally recognised government and the rebels, who hold northern areas of Yemen including the capital, Sanaa.