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7 Killed In Attack On Hospital In Yemen


In Yemen, it has been four years now since Saudi Arabia, with some support from the United States, began leading a coalition to go after Houthi rebels. Those rebels are seen as allies of Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional rival. This war has had a catastrophic effect on civilians in Yemen. And yesterday, Save the Children says an airstrike hit so close to one of its hospitals that it killed hospital staff. NPR's Ruth Sherlock has been following this.

Hi, Ruth.

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Hello. Good morning.

GREENE: What exactly happened here?

SHERLOCK: Well, Save the Children are saying that seven people, including a hospital worker, a security guard and four children, were killed in this attack that happened about 50 yards from the main building of the hospital entrance. It hit a gas station in this - next to this very rural hospital just as the staff were arriving. Carolyn Miles, the president of Save the Children, she said this is an outrageous attack, and for her it's not the first. She says she's seeing again and again in Yemen what she calls a complete disregard for all warring parties - by all warring parties - sorry - for the basic rules of war.

GREENE: I mean, it's incredible that, you know, an anniversary of a war is a moment to sort of take stock of just the catastrophic consequences of a war. And we have this event happen right on the four-year anniversary since the Saudi-led coalition began.

SHERLOCK: Right. I mean, the fact that it should happen exactly on that day. Basically, what we're seeing on this anniversary is a very grim toll. You know, you've seen previous attacks on hospitals and civilian infrastructure. You might remember last year there was a bombing on a bus that had kids going on a school trip.


SHERLOCK: Dozens were killed, about all under the age of 15. The Yemen Data Project says that 1/3 of Saudi-led airstrikes hit things that are not military targets. And Save the Children has another grim statistic. They're saying that at least 226 Yemeni children have been killed and 217 injured in air raids carried out by the Saudi-led coalition just in the last 12 months. So it's important to say that in this war both sides are committing atrocities. But a lot of the focus of rights groups at the moment is on the Saudi-led coalition because they're saying, in part, this coalition is able to function because of arms supplies that are sold by the United States, by the United Kingdom and other countries, despite amnesty saying that they have committed war crimes. Some countries - Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, among others - have stopped sales.

GREENE: But you mention the role of the United States. I mean, it's certainly led to a growing debate here about whether the U.S. should support the Saudis. So what are the chances of this war ending at any point soon?

SHERLOCK: Yeah. It has led to a growing debate. And I think there have been some changes, but arms sales continue, which is what rights groups are sort of questioning. Overall, the efforts at peace talks have, in the past, failed. The most recent effort hinges on securing a cease-fire around the port city of Hodeidah. This is an essential place for Yemen. Yemen's on the brink of famine. It's one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

And Yemenis basically need this port to get food in. But a lot of the effort has been halted because of - you know, it's been hard to get food in because of the fighting. But cease-fire efforts have also faltered. And earlier this month, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the Yemen peace process is in what he called a last-chance saloon and could collapse within weeks. So we're going into the fifth year of bombardment with a very little - very little positivity.

GREENE: NPR's Ruth Sherlock on MORNING EDITION from NPR News this morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Ruth Sherlock
Ruth Sherlock is an International Correspondent with National Public Radio. She's based in Beirut and reports on Syria and other countries around the Middle East. She was previously the United States Editor for the Daily Telegraph, covering the 2016 US election. Before moving to the US in the spring of 2015, she was the Telegraph's Middle East correspondent.