Doctors Without Borders hospital bombed in Yemen.

Another Doctors Without Borders Hospital Bombed and More Evidence That the U.S. Committed a War Crime

Another Doctors Without Borders Hospital Bombed and More Evidence That the U.S. Committed a War Crime

The Slatest
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Oct. 27 2015 2:33 PM

Another Doctors Without Borders Hospital Bombed and More Evidence That the U.S. Committed a War Crime

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The damaged interior of the hospital in which the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) medical charity operated is seen on October 13, 2015 following an air strike in the northern city of Kunduz. Thirty-three people are still missing days after a US air strike on an Afghan hospital, the medical charity has warned, sparking fears the death toll could rise significantly. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

For the second time in a month, a Doctors Without Borders hospital was bombed by warplanes, this time by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. The health center in northern Yemen was hit by two airstrikes on Monday night, forcing the evacuation of staff members and patients, and critically wounding at least one.

The air campaign by Saudi Arabia and its allies to drive back the Houthi rebels who have taken over the country’s capital began in March and has been criticized by human rights groups and other governments for the high number of civilian casualties it has caused—at least 2,300 according to the United Nations. This has included several attacks on hospitals, though never before a facility run by Doctors Without Borders, one of the few international nongovernmental organizations that still has a significant presence in the country. The group claims to have provided the health center’s location to the coalition six months ago.

The incident is likely to raise more questions about the U.S. role in the military intervention. Washington has mostly supported the Saudi campaign, despite concerns over whether it is helping Sunni extremist groups like al-Qaida and ISIS, but has tried to distance itself from the large number of civilian casualties. After a particularly deadly couple of days earlier this month, the White House said that the U.S. has “no role in targeting decisions made by the Coalition in Yemen,” which contradicted earlier statements that the U.S. is involved in intelligence sharing, targeting assistance and advisory support" to the campaign.  

The new incident comes as the story of how exactly the U.S. came to bomb a different Doctors Without Borders facility—the hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan—on Oct. 3 continues to look worse and worse for the U.S. military. The AP reported Monday that the Green Berets who ordered the strike were aware the target was a hospital but believed it was under Taliban control. Doctors Without Borders has denied that the Taliban was in control of the facility or even that Taliban fighters were active within it, but even if they were, firing on a facility known to be treating wounded people would probably violate both U.S. rules of engagement and international humanitarian law.

Doctors Without Borders has demanded an independent international investigation into the Kunduz bombing, but the U.S. and Afghan governments haven’t yet given their consent. Monday’s incident won’t really help Washington’s cause. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and author of the forthcoming book, Invisible Countries.