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Pro-government forces in Yemen take hospital in strategic port city

AFP | Yemeni pro-government forces gather on the eastern outskirts of Hodeida, as they continue to battle for the control of the city from Houthi rebels on November 9, 2018.

Pro-government forces fighting Huthi rebels in Yemen have taken the main hospital in the strategic Red Sea port city of Hodeida, government military officials said Saturday.

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The May 22 Hospital lies in the east of the rebel-held city, a key aid conduit that is the target of a renewed offensive by the Saudi and Emirati-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

On Thursday, loyalist forces backed by Saudi air strikes entered the city for the first time, pushing towards the port and using bulldozers to remove concrete road blocks installed by the rebels.

Officials said pro-government forces took over the hospital on Friday evening.

Amnesty International had accused the Houthis on Thursday of “deliberate militarisation” of the facility after they stationed fighters on its roof.

A medical source told AFP on Wednesday that the rebels had forced staff out of the hospital and set up sniper positions.

Save the Children’s Field Coordinator in Yemen, Dr Mariam Aldogani, went to the Al Amal hospital in Hodeida on Friday evening.

“This should stop immediately, this is the worst period for the Hodeida governornate. This is the worst time for Hodeida children. I visited Al Amal hospital. I saw one child, he is a teenager, he’s 15 years old. He’s totally paralysed because three days ago he was walking in the street and a stray bullet penetrated his neck and cut his spinal cord. He’s totally paralysed.”

“Since last week more than 20 children have been affected by shrapnel or bullets or shelling. Two children have died,” said Aldogani. “The ages of the children affected since just last week ranges from six months old to 17 years old. Some were injured on their way home from school. Most of the areas in Hodeida city have become unsafe.

“I’m a mother. I saw a mother crying openly in the hospital. Her child came from school and he became injured because of this war. Everyone is panicking, people are taking their children home from hospital because even the hospitals aren’t safe.

"Hodeida people and their children are paying the highest cost.”

Nearly 80 percent of Yemen’s commercial imports and practically all UN-supervised humanitarian aid pass through Hodeida’s port.

The Huthis have controlled Hodeida since 2014 when they overran the capital Sanaa and swept though much of the rest of the country, triggering an intervention by the Saudi-led coalition the following year and a devastating war of attrition.

The rebels have since been driven out of virtually all of the south and much of the Red Sea coast.

Nearly 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the conflict since 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Human rights groups say the real death toll may be five times higher.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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