Coalition wants urgent talks over MSF Yemen pullout

Yemeni firefighters extinguish fire at a food factory allegedly targeted by a Saudi-led airstrike in San'a, Yemen on Aug 9.
Yemeni firefighters extinguish fire at a food factory allegedly targeted by a Saudi-led airstrike in San'a, Yemen on Aug 9.PHOTO: EPA

RIYADH (AFP) - The Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen said Friday it wanted urgent talks with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) over the charity's withdrawal of staff from six hospitals in the war-torn country.

Paris-based MSF on Thursday accused the coalition of "indiscriminate bombings" and said it had lost confidence in the alliance's ability to prevent fatal attacks on its facilities.

"We very much regret MSF's decision to evacuate staff from six hospitals in northern Yemen," the coalition said.

"We are seeking urgent discussions with MSF to understand how we can work together to resolve this situation." The coalition added that it values greatly MSF's work "under difficult circumstances" in Yemen.

MSF's decision came after 19 people died in an air strike Monday on an MSF-supported hospital in the rebel-held northern province of Hajja.

That was the fourth and deadliest attack yet on an MSF facility during the war, the charity said.

The Arab coalition began air raids in March last year, later sending in ground forces, to support the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after Huthi rebels and their allies overran much of Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has faced repeated criticism from rights groups over civilian casualties.

But it has said it uses highly accurate laser and GPS-guided weapons, and it verifies targets many times in order to avoid civilian casualties.

A coalition investigative team is conducting "independent" probes into the hospital strike and an air raid last Saturday on a Koranic school which MSF said killed 10 children in Saada province, also held by the rebels in Yemen's north.

"The coalition is committed to full respect for international humanitarian law in the conduct of our operations in Yemen," the alliance statement said.