Bombing Hospitals: The New Norm of War

In early October the medical facility run by Médecins Sans Frontières in Kunduz, Afghanistan was purposely bombed by the United States. Then, on October 26, the US backed Saudi bombed another hospital in Yemen that was run by MSF.

A hospital run by international aid group Doctors Without Borders (referred to internationally in French as Medecins Sans Frontières, MSF) in Yemen was bombed on Monday. MSF says it recognized the planes that bombed it as those belonging to the Saudi-led coalition. The coalition denied attacking the hospital, but the U.N. verified that Saudi airstrikes were responsible.

No one was killed in the shelling, but, according to the U.N., several people were injured and the medical facility was razed to the ground. The aid organization also made clear that its “hospital’s GPS coordinates were regularly shared with the Saudi-led coalition, and the roof of the facility was clearly identified with the MSF logo,” yet it was still shelled for two hours.

Hassan Boucenine, MSF head of mission in Yemen, remarked “This attack is another illustration of a complete disregard for civilians in Yemen, where bombings have become a daily routine.”

On November 28, a hospital supported by MSF in Homs. Syria was struck partially destroyed in a “double-tap” barrel bombing, a signature tactic of the Syrian air force.

MSF, which operates and supports a number of health centres and field hospitals in Syria, said the attack bore the hallmark of a double-tap strike, whereby the first bombing is followed by a second one after paramedics have arrived to help the victims. “This double-tap tactic shows a level of calculated destruction that can scarcely be imagined,” said MSF’s director of operations, Brice de le Vingne.

MSF said a barrel bomb was dropped from a helicopter on a populated area of Zafarana at 9.40 am on Saturday, followed nearly an hour later by two barrel bombs at the entrance of the hospital, wounding 47 patients and medical staff in total.

It was reported today that a fourth hospital run by MSF, the second in Yemen, was bombed yesterday.

At least nine people were injured, including two medical staff members. Two of the wounded have life-threatening injuries. The injured were transferred to two other hospitals being supported by Doctors Without Borders, which is known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The clinic, which was located in the al-Houban district of Yemen’s southern city Ta’iz, had treated 480 patients in the two days before the attack.

As in previous cases of U.S.-backed forces bombing MSF facilities, the Saudi-led coalition was given the precise location of the al-Houban clinic. “The health structure’s GPS coordinates were regularly shared with the Saudi-led coalition, most recently on November 29, when we informed them about this specific activity in al-Houban,” noted Jerome Alin, MSF head of mission in Yemen. “There is no way that the Saudi-led coalition could have been unaware of the presence of MSF activities in this location.”

“The bombing of civilians and hospitals is a violation of international humanitarian law,” Alin emphasized. “Civilians seeking health care and medical facilities must be respected.”

It isn’t unexpected that Syria’s President Bashir Assad has any problem violating the Geneva conventions and humanitarian law but it is now the new norm for the United States and its allies to bomb hospitals.


  1. I hope I need not add (though I will anyway) I also consider this a heinous crime and think those responsible, up to and including the National Command Authority (I’m looking you dead in the eye Barack), should spend a lifetime behind bars in Spandau.

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