Houthi fighters battled Saudi-led forces in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah on Thursday and posted gunmen on the roof of a hospital, leaving doctors and young patients in the line of fire, rights groups and military sources said.
The Houthis raided the May 22 hospital in the city’s eastern suburbs, sources said, as clashes raged on in the face of mounting calls from world powers, including some of Saudi Arabia’s main Western allies, for a ceasefire.
“This is a stomach-churning development that could have devastating consequences for the hospital’s medical workers and dozens of civilian patients, including many children,” said Amnesty’s International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns, Samah Hadid.
Fighting was getting closer to the hospital and had already disrupted services there, the International Committee of the Red Cross added.
Medics at hospitals inside the city reported 47 rebels had been killed in overnight ground fighting and air raids by a Saudi-led coalition supporting the government.
Sources at hospitals in government-held areas on the outskirts said 11 soldiers had also been killed.
Houthi officials did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
A Saudi-led coalition has been battling to push Houthis out of the city they have held since 2014. A surge of fighting in the past week has trapped thousands of civilians in the crossfire and coalition air raids.
Nearly 80 percent of Yemen's commercial imports and practically all UN-supervised humanitarian aid pass through Hodeida.
UN bodies and other powers have warned that an all-out attack on the city, an entry point for 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports and aid relief, could trigger a famine in the impoverished state.
The latest fighting has focused on Hodeidah’s eastern 7th July neighborhoods and around a university just 4 km (2.5 miles) from the port and a few blocks from al-Thawra hospital, the main medical facility on Yemen’s western coast.