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Saudi-led coalition to probe alleged Yemen clinic strike

AFP , Thursday 3 Dec 2015

The Saudi-led coalition battling Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen said Thursday it will investigate accusations that it bombed a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Yemen.

Non-governmental organisations have repeatedly criticised the 10-month-long air war in Yemen, saying warplanes hit areas that don't contain military targets.

The coalition has denied the accusations, but this is the first time it has said it would probe a specific incident.

"We will investigate. We will come up with a result," coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri told AFP.

Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, earlier Thursday accused the coalition of bombing its clinic in southwest Yemen.

Nine people were wounded in what it said was "a violation of international law".

Two MSF staff were among those hurt when the clinic in Taez, Yemen's third-largest city, was struck by coalition jets on Wednesday, it said.

The agency said it had repeatedly shared coordinates of the clinic with Riyadh in the days before the strike.

"There is no way that the Saudi-led coalition could have been unaware of the presence of MSF activities in this location," said Jerome Alin, MSF mission head in Yemen.

"The bombing of civilians and hospitals is a violation of international humanitarian law. Civilians seeking health care and medical facilities must be respected," Alin said in a statement.

Assiri said the coalition has asked both MSF and military personnel on the ground to provide more information.

There has been heavy fighting in Taez where coalition-backed forces are trying to drive out the Iran-backed rebels.

Assiri said coalition aircraft were providing close air support Wednesday when they received "an urgent target" on a Houthi position.

"We believe that MSF was close to that position," Assiri said.

It is the second time since late October that MSF has accused the coalition of striking one of its facilities.

In the earlier incident, MSF said the coalition bombed a hospital in the rebel-held Saada area, even though the aid group said it had provided the GPS coordinates.

Senior coalition intelligence officers have denied receiving those coordinates.

In late September and early October, the coalition twice denied it had bombed weddings in Yemen after dozens of civilians were killed.

The coalition says it is using highly-accurate laser and GPS-guided weapons, and it verifies targets many times in order to avoid civilian casualties.

More than 5,700 people have been killed in Yemen since March, nearly half of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

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